Healing Divisions

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BY REV. JOHN JACKMAN |

Every year, Moravians around the world pause to observe the August 13th. This was the date in 1727 when our forebears experienced a powerful renewal, an event that has sometimes been called “the Moravian Pentecost.” We celebrate Holy Communion on the Sunday closest to August 13, sing hymns about renewal and reconciliation – and then what? Do we go about our business the same as before? What impact does this have on our lives today?

Most Moravians know a bit about the event on August 13, 1727, but know little of the details. It didn’t just “happen.” The previous year had been one of growing and terrible divisions among the Herrnhuters. Some newcomers to the little community had brought apocalyptic preaching and talk of the end times. Zinzendorf was the antichrist, Pastor Rothe (the Lutheran pastor called to the Berthelsdorf parish church) was the “beast from the pit.” Families were divided – just about the way some families are now!

Herrnhut, Germany - looking at the church | Photo by Mike Riess/IBOC

Herrnhut, Germany – looking at the church | Photo by Mike Riess/IBOC

Zinzendorf recognized that his little village of refugees was on the path to destruction, and resigned his position in the court in Dresden to return home and act as pastor to the community, visiting and calling the people together for prayerful study of the scriptures. During this period, the residents became convicted that their behavior toward one another had been inexcusable – that the Savior called His followers to exhibit love toward one another, to be “one” in his name. Out of this grew the remarkable document known in German as the Bruderlisch Vertrag, the Brotherly Agreement, now known as the Moravian Covenant for Christian Living. Rather than a doctrinal statement, the Moravians signed a code of Christian behavior. This was signed on May 12, 1727 by all the residents of Herrnhut. They entered a period of obedience to what they had found in scripture, spending increased time in prayer. The following three months brought about massive changes in the behavior of the community. Dr. Kenneth Curtis, founder of the Christian History Institute, wrote:

“On August 5, Zinzendorf and fourteen of the Brethren spent the entire night in conversation and prayer. On August 10th, Pastor Rothe was so overcome by God’s nearness during an afternoon service at Herrnhut, that he threw himself on the ground during prayer and called to God with words of repentance as he had never done before. The congregation was moved to tears and continued until midnight, praising God and singing.¹”

The Berthelsdorf Parish Church in Germany | Photo by Mike Riess

The next morning, Pastor Rothe invited everyone in the Herrnhut community to a joint communion service at the Bethelsdorf Church. It was held on Wednesday evening, August 13. Count Zinzendorf visited every house in Herrnhut to pray with the family in preparation for this service of communion. During this period of obedience to the Brotherly Agreement, of continued study of scriptures, and intense prayer, all had become convinced of their own sinfulness and need for forgiveness – from Christ and from one another. The service was one of confession; the words of forgiveness in the liturgy, and then the sharing of Holy Communion, had for each a profound meaning. Count Zinzendorf looked upon that August 13th as “a day of the outpourings of the Holy Spirit upon the congregation; it was its Pentecost.” It would later be said “This was the day that they learned to love one another.”

This reestablished the ancient call of the Unity – to live out the Great Commandment and the Beatitudes in community in a way that bore witness to the world of the love of God. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35, NIV. This is a call that the Unity has sought to live out for over 561 years, since our founding in 1457.

But what does August 13 mean for us today? For even if we are not arguing about who is the antichrist or when the End will be, we are a divided people. We are divided by the hot-button issues, by the ranting of politicians, by racial divisions. Shall we go through the motions of singing the hymns and receiving the Lord’s Supper this Sunday – and then go back to being divided and regarding one another out of the corner of our eyes?

Just like our forebears, we need a period of obedience to the Brotherly Agreement, a period of intense Bible study, and even more, a time of earnest prayer. We need to learn to love one another. Without the hard work of preparation, no magical renewal come with the waving of a wand.


Sources

1 Dr. A. Kenneth Curtis, “A Golden Summer.” Republished online at the Zinzendorf Jubilee site, http://zinzendorf.com/pages/index.php?id=a-golden-summer


About the Author

image of John Jackman

Photo courtesy of John Jackman

The Rev. John Jackman is pastor of Trinity Moravian Church in Winston-Salem.

 


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Seeking the Moravian Way (part one)

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BY REV. CHAZ SNIDER |

Embracing Mystery and the Fight Against Certainty


Editor’s note: this is part one in a series of blog posts by the Rev. Chaz SniderSubsequent parts to this series, “Seeking the Moravian Way,” will be published over the next few weeks on the Spotlight Blog and on Chaz’s blog. These additional parts will publish on Mondays, outside of the normal rotation. The normal rotation publishes Saturday and typically does not feature the same writer two weeks in a row.

If you want the rest of this series (and other future posts from Chaz’s blog) emailed to you directly, you can sign up for that here.


If you identify as a Moravian, I am sure you are familiar with the inquisitive look that you often get when you tell people that. It is more than likely going to be followed by the question, “What is a Moravian?” If they happen to be familiar with the denomination, then usually the response you get is “Oh you are the cookie people!” I cannot deny the fact that Moravians hold claim to some delicious treats.

The question “what is a Moravian?” tends to have deeper resonance when you ask it in the context of the spiritual landscape of today’s world. Church participation continues to drop and more people call themselves “spiritual but not religious” than ever before. This shift in American religion can cause us in the church to ask some healthy questions. Perhaps the best question we can ask ourselves is the same one that is most often asked of us: “What is a Moravian?”

There is not one theological issue that separates us Moravians from other Christians. What I come back with is a unique approach to faith and spirituality.

When I turn back to our history in an attempt to answer that question, I don’t come back with a doctrinal answer. There is not one theological issue that separates us Moravians from other Christians. What I come back with is a unique approach to faith and spirituality. When I look at our uniqueness it is not the “what” of faith that is different for us, but rather the “how” of our faith. Or to put it another way, how we live our faith is just as important to us as the content of our faith.

One of the key aspects of this Moravian way is an embrace of mystery and being ok with uncertainty. The writings of many early Moravians speak of the mystery of faith. They are not bound to the certainty of dogmatic and religious formulations but are ok with the mystery of God. These early Moravians speak of the Trinity as a family, Father God, Brother Christ, and Mother Spirit. Instead of debating the metaphysics of the incarnation they spoke of entering the wounds of Christ as a way of God inhabiting all of the human experience.

An image of the stained glass Moravian seal in Fairview Moravian Church's sanctuary | Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM

The stained-glass Moravian seal in Fairview Moravian Church’s sanctuary | Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM

We Moravians, like many Christians, have not always embraced these mystical elements of our heritage and for many years we have downplayed that aspect of our tradition. For much of the 20th century, faith was equated with believing something with a high degree of certainty. In defining faith this way, it became an intellectual exercise as opposed to something that required our being in meaningful community with others. Instead of focusing on how we lived in the world, faith became only believing a certain checklist of things.

When many early Moravians described their experience of faith, they did not seem particularly concerned about checking off a list of beliefs. Instead, they seemed much more concerned with how the mysterious Christ shaped the way they lived in the world.

[Zinzendorf] was interested in promoting a particular way of living out faith. A way that embraced mystery, made a meaningful impact on the world, and was centered on the person of Christ.

So why is this important? Christians in our country today are facing a crisis of identity. We are living in a more post-Christian society each day. Churches are shrinking at a rapid pace and people seem less interested in religion. And those things scare a lot of people, especially people in churches.

Here is the really interesting thing: even though people may be abandoning religion, they’re not abandoning spirituality. Pew Research tells us that 44% of the spiritual-but-not-religious pray every day and 92% believe God exists. Perhaps there is still a spiritual need to be filled, but many religious communities aren’t meeting that need.

An image of a bust of Count Zinzendorf in Herrnhut, Germany | Photo by Mike Riess / IBOC

A bust of Count Zinzendorf in Herrnhut, Germany | Photo by Mike Riess / IBOC

The Moravian way of faith might speak to this spiritual hunger. If we look back into our own history we will find that Zinzendorf, one of the most influential Moravian leaders, didn’t have any interest in starting a new denomination or religion. He was interested in promoting a particular way of living out faith. A way that embraced mystery, made a meaningful impact on the world and was centered on the person of Christ. So maybe we should give thought to how this Moravian way might find expression in a nonreligious way.

Zinzendorf and the early Moravians were less concerned with the certainty of faith and much more interested in the mystery of faith. We live in a world today where we divide ourselves by our certainties and absolutes. It can be certainty on politics, certainty on religion, or certainty on how good or bad the new Star Wars movie was. Whatever it may be, we divide and categorize each other because we have failed to cultivate mystery, uncertainty, and unknowing in our lives.

Maybe if we turn back to our Moravian way of faith, we can focus less on preserving our institutions and our certainties, and instead embrace the mysteries of our faith in Christ.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Image of the Rev. Chaz Snider

Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM

The Rev. Chaz Snider is the pastor at Ardmore Moravian Church (AMC) in Winston-Salem, NC. Chaz was born and raised in Charlotte, NC. He is a lifelong Moravian. Chaz’s focus is helping people who crave a relationship with God but aren’t sure where to start. He has a passion for spreading the love of Jesus to everyone and is looking forward to seeing how AMC can impact our city. Chaz’s wife Michaleh is a Physical Education teacher and director of children, youth, and family ministry. They have three kids: Chris, Abby, and Sara.

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Jesus Loves the Children… All the Children of the World

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BY BETH HAYES |

Children participate in an activity at one of the Children's Festivals

Children participate in activities at one of the annual Children’s Festivals | Photo by Suzy Tucker

A few weeks ago, many of us witnessed history being made at Trinity Moravian with the consecration of Carol Foltz as the first female bishop in the Southern Province. In her charge, we heard that she pledged herself to the work of children’s ministry in the Moravian Church as one of the important goals in her role as a bishop. The wonderful Logos Choir of children opened the service and warmed many of our hearts with a rendition of “I’ll Fly Away.” It was truly a day to remember.

It is important that each congregation in the Moravian Church share Carol’s commitment to children. The recent Southern Province Synod passed a resolution (Resolution #5) to adapt Loving Hearts United: A Moravian Guide to Family Living into a weekly email for families and educators. Work by this Synod working group and the Board of Cooperative Ministries has already begun to make this a reality by end of August when many children’s summer will end, bringing with it the beginning of a new school year. Parents, grandparents, and guardians, it is up to you to sign up to get these weekly emails and use the suggestions as part of your weekly family time together. What an impact this could make at the beginning of a new school year, and throughout the rest of the year for your families. (More info on where to sign up for these emails will be available at a later date.)

The Board of Cooperative Ministries continues to work for the children in our Province too. The fifth annual Children’s Festival and Lovefeast is almost here. There is a lot of interactive learning of Moravian history planned for families at Hope Moravian.

Moravian Ministry Voyage logo

The Moravian Ministry Voyage will happen at Advent Moravian in September. where Moravians of all ages, including children, will gather to learn about Moravian ministry locally and internationally, and see the first ever Southern Province performance of Irene: the Adventure Begins. Irene is a musical about Leonard Dober, David Nitschmann, and their mission work.

The Moravian BCM continues to help our congregations in the ongoing ministry with children by providing quality Sunday school curriculum options, Vacation Bible School options, and a whole host of books and resources for families to use in doing faith formation at home.

Carol Foltz at her service of consecration

The Rt. Rev. Carol Foltz shortly after being consecrated as a bishop of the Moravian Church | Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM

Let’s not forget Carol’s pledge to serve children and our responsibility that we accepted at children’s baptisms. At these baptisms, we pledge to guide them in faith formation in our congregations and we pledge to provide help and support to their parents.

The BCM will continue to provide opportunities like the Children’s Festival and the Ministry Voyage. There is a Children and Family Task Force that works under the Board of Cooperative Ministries. It is being redesigned at this time and we are looking for new members. For those who might be interested, it meets quarterly. If you or someone you know has a heart for children and family ministry, please let me know and we would love to have you on our team. The goal of this task force says it all: to celebrate and encourage children and families in the life of our church and support faith communities as we fulfill the promise of baptism for our Moravian families.

In closing, remember this quote from The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember 

“Each generation, in its turn, is a link between all that has gone before and all that comes after. That is true genetically and it is equally true in the transmission of identity. Our parents gave us what they were able to give, and we took what we could of it and made it part of ourselves. If we knew our grandparents, and even great-grandparents, we will have taken from them what they could offer us too. All that helped to make us who we are. We in our turn will offer what we can of ourselves to our children and their offspring” (Rogers 65).

Whether you are a parent, grandparent, Sunday school teacher, or a member of a congregation, let’s band together and offer the best we can for our children.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Beth Hayes portrait

Beth Hayes is the Director of Congregational Ministries and Resources for the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries. She has been working in this role for 33 years. Before coming to the Moravian Church, she served as the director of Christian Education in several Presbyterian Churches. She holds a Master’s Degree in Christian Education from the Presbyterian School of Christian Education. She is a member of Clemmons Moravian Church and regularly attends Come and Worship.


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Nurturing Families in the Church (part one)

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BY CAROL CROOKS |

Since the family is the most important means of growing and sustaining a church community, it is important to place an emphasis on creating a healthy Christian environment that allows parents and children to grow morally and spiritually. Churches need to offer programs that will support and involve parents in the Christian education of their children. One way is to make the connection between studying the Bible as a family affair. In many churches, the children are given lessons created by the church or by an outside organization. These lessons, which are specific to the liturgical calendar, are started in church and then sent home to be completed by the family. During Sunday school or church service, the lesson is completed and the children will have something tangible to take home as a reminder of what was studied.

Photos highlight the 2017 Children's Festival and Lovefeast

Photos highlight the 2017 Children’s Festival and Lovefeast at Friedberg Moravian Church | Photos by Andrew David Cox / Moravian BCM

Children need to be equipped with positive self-esteem and Christian values so that they can become productive Christian citizens that contribute to their community. To help build confidence and encourage positive Christian values, the youth should be an integral part of mission activities, as well as a regular part of the church service and other additional activities being promoted by the church. If an organization or a Sunday school class is having a yard sale, bazaar or making chicken pies, then arrangements should be done to include the youth (especially middle and high school) in some way.

Families with a strong spiritual base are the foundation of a growing and striving church. Groups such as men’s and women’s bible studies, single and divorced parents should be supported. Working parents must be taken into account when activities are being scheduled. As we are aware of current family situations in society, it is imperative that the church seeks to mend some of the weak links in the family. In the past young families had much more support from older and more experienced family members. Currently, there are more single and divorced parents and isolated senior citizens who desperately need a helping hand. Bringing in knowledgeable Christian professionals to help create programs geared to specific needs in the church and its community would be a good place to start. One example is a program that teaches parents about the various stages of physical and mental growth of children and positive Christian-centered methods to discipline them with. Another aspect is the ability of churches to be more open about mental and spiritual issues in communities.

Photo of mother with children

Photo by Marco Ceshi via Unsplash.com

Providing intergenerational programs will allow the younger generations to learn and respect the wisdom of their elders. These fellowship programs would involve group discussions, exchange of emails and/or telephone numbers with the intention of forming relationships. Ideas for the aforementioned programs could be solicited from the congregation. Some ideas that seem out-of-the-box should be at least given some consideration and not be marginalized, because sometimes that is how creative and effective programs are born. Knowledgeable staff and trained volunteers should be available to guide the various programs and projects. A safe and secure environment is paramount in these activities. To prevent abuses or misunderstandings about what is appropriate behavior, training and screening of all adults who work with children should be mandatory.

Children should be an integral part of church activities and therefore, when planning any new endeavor we must always be cognizant of how it might also impact the younger generation. Children activities should have as much parent involvement as possible and input from parents should be welcomed. We must remember that the future of the church is in the hands of the upcoming generations, so let’s faithfully prepare them to carry on the Lord’s work. We should be a beacon of support and nurturing behavior in our society and be more engaging to those needing a spiritual home.

Photo of a family picnic

Photo by John-Mark Smith via Unsplash.com

 


 

Carol Crooks, of New Philadelphia Moravian, served as a member of the Family Nurture Working Group. The working group was a part of the Community Committee at the Southern Province’s 2018 Synod. This blog is a part of a series of BCM Spotlight Blog posts written by members of the Family Nurture Working Group, focusing on their conclusions and findings, as outlined in Resolution #5: Sharing Moravian Best Practices with Southern Province Families.

 


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Friendship Through the Wilderness

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BY THE REV. CORY L. KEMP |

Photo of a palm cross

Photo by Andrew David Cox / Moravian BCM

We are coming toward the end of our wilderness journey, this Lenten season filled with opportunity to explore our faith, to learn new ways to be present as Jesus taught us in the example of his own life. 

Forty days feels like a long time to do this incredible work of honoring God’s wisdom in us, to be humbled by its transformative strength and power, often in ways we can barely begin to unravel in this Great Mystery that God truly is.

And then suddenly, there is Palm Sunday. We sing our Hosannas, echoing those surrounding Jesus as he returned to Jerusalem. 

And, we know what comes next. 

By Biblical accounts, so did Jesus. His time in the wilderness appears to have given him affirmation, personal resolve, and the renewed foundation of faith to walk back out of the wilderness and into the fire. And, as he faced this stretch of his life, he also had his friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. 

It is a Biblical concept, this sense of connection to each other that can be described as deep affection, respect, admiration and love. In describing Jesus, each gospel writer allows a great teacher, prophet and savior to emerge. But John’s one sentence speaks of Jesus the friend: “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus (John 11:5).” Jesus spent time with them in their home, including the Passover, a true family celebration. One can only surmise that in the remembrance of the Passover ritual and tradition, there were also stories told of past gatherings, and some laughter. 

From Jesus and his friends we can learn some wonderful lessons about friendship.

Image of friends hanging out on a mountain

Photo by Arthur Poulin, via Unsplash.com

Friends become a safe haven when hospitality is shared, hearts are opened, and love is freely given. The sisters clearly were hurt and angry, confused and deeply saddened when Jesus took so long getting back to them as Lazarus was dying. They were equally elated and grateful at the results when Jesus finally did show up.  Raising Lazarus from the dead must have been a recurring story around their table whenever Jesus came to visit. How could it not be?

Friends make us better. Augustine believed it was important to surround ourselves with people who are better than us because they make us better. A friend and I laughed over the fact that we had both chosen each other for this reason. While Jesus was known to many as teacher, healer, prophet and miracle worker, he was also known to this family as friend. Spending time with other people’s families gives us insight into ourselves in unique ways. These siblings gave Jesus something he would not have had if he hadn’t chosen to spend time with them.

Friends remind us who we are, even when we forget. When we falter, face huge obstacles, back away from what we don’t want to deal with, and when we are smack in the middle of something we don’t know our way out of, our friends are with us to say out loud, or in our hearts, “Yes, you can. I know you, and I know you can.” In our slim book of Holy Week readings, there is a small notation indicating that we don’t know what Jesus did on Wednesday night, the night before his arrest and imprisonment, but it is assumed he spent the night in Bethany in seclusion with friends. A last night of peace among those he loved and who loved him. 

Image of friends hanging out together

Photo by Sammie Vasquez, via Unsplash.com

So as we come to the conclusion of our wilderness journey, as we enter Jerusalem with Jesus, spend some time in the home of his friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, I invite you also to look around your own life, take note of those you have welcomed as friends over the years and who are a part of your life today.   

And from author, Will Cather, I offer one final lesson in friendship with which I think Jesus would agree: “Ain’t it wonderful how much people can mean to each other?”


Cory Kimp

The Rev. Cory L. Kemp is founder and faith mentor with Broad Plains Faith Coaching. Cory, employing her signature Handcrafted Faith program, supports ordained and lay women leaders in visualizing, understanding and strengthening their beliefs, so that they may know, love and serve God and their communities with generosity, wisdom and joy.


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The Path to Purpose

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BY ZACH ROUTH |

“May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships so that you may live deep within your heart.”1

Sixteen months ago, I boarded a plane to an unfamiliar place for a weekend of what I anticipated would be fun and fellowship with Moravian friends from across America. My destination was Wisconsin and the Board of World Mission’s 2016 FIT Event at Mt. Morris. In the weeks prior, I had just begun a new graduate program at NC State University pursuing a PhD in Sociology.

It was the opportunity of a lifetime, with a full scholarship, an office, and the chance to do meaningful research at a great school. FIT² was only a blip on my radar. Little did I know, the weekend would provide a nudge that would eventually send my neatly-planned life into a whirlwind of chaos.

Image of 2016 FIT First attendees around a campfire

2016 FIT First attendees congregate around a campfire. | Photo by Mike Riess, IBOC

It started with a conversation around a campfire. Some friends asked me about my plans and my goals. My answers were vague and brief. I was going to do research in education because that was a cause I believed in and where I could make a difference. Some asked if I was going to go into the ministry like my dad and I scoffed at those possibilities.

Conversations continued through the weekend. Presentations, focus groups, and fellowship distracted me from responsibilities back in North Carolina, and poked holes in what I thought I knew about myself.

Photo of FIT First event

Attendees participate in an activity led by Bishop Sam Gray at the 2016 FIT First event. | Photo by Mike Riess, IBOC

By Sunday afternoon, discomfort grew within my gut. As my peers made awesome plans to go out and serve the world, I wondered silently, “What in the world am I doing?” Up until this point my answer was easy: five or so years of graduate school and then I will go on to help others using my research. This answer was no longer sufficient.

“May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people so that you may wish for justice, freedom, and peace.”1

Before I came to college, I knew I wanted a career that would allow me to help others. I first considered being a history teacher, and eventually settled on sociology professor. My research looked into school segregation, spatial stratification, and teacher job satisfaction, among other topics. It was my way of bringing about peace and justice to the world.

As the semester progressed, my discomfort grew. The pressures of school and life as a young adult mounted into a hill of anxiety. The goals I had worked so hard to achieve now seemed like a pipe dream, not because I was struggling, but because my motivation was gone.

By Thanksgiving, I reached a wall. I talked with friends, reflected, and prayed. “What in the world am I doing?” turned into, “Who in the world am I serving?”

I had spent the entire semester learning about the joys and tribulations that define the lives of school teachers. One day it finally hit me. Everything I wanted to achieve could be done as a teacher. There, my work would not be stored in a library or buried in an academic journal. My work would be preparing youth for their future.

Before Christmas, I resigned from my position and transferred into the College of Education to become a high school social studies teacher. Gone was the scholarship, gone was the prestige, but gone was the aimlessness.

Image of man looking down road

Photo by Danka and Peter via Unsplash.com

“May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.”1

“Why do you want to be a teacher?” is the new question I ask myself, and a question I am asked almost weekly. My short answer succinctly describes my belief in public education. The full answer is rooted in my faith as a Christian and a Moravian.

In 2018, I will enter the workforce not only as a teacher, but as a servant of God. My mission field is in the classroom where I hope to share the type of compassion and love that our Lord has shown to me.

Some are called to serve from the pulpit, or in foreign locations, but neither of those options are in my wheelhouse. I imagine I am not the only one who has this sentiment.

Our creator has equipped each of his children to serve one another. Discovering where these gifts are to be used can be a tedious process. It may take some nudging, and you will probably feel uncomfortable, but in the end, you will be led exactly where you need to be.

I am thankful for the discomfort I experienced a year ago. I look forward to living out my purpose for years to come. God has blessed me to be foolish enough to think that I can make a difference in the world, and I am grateful.


1A Franciscan Blessing
Claiborne, Shane, and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. Common Prayer: a Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. Zondervan, 2012.

²Information about FIT 2015


Photo of Zach Routh

Photo courtesy of Zach Routh

Zach Routh is a member of Grace Moravian Church in Mt. Airy, North Carolina and also attends Raleigh Moravian Church. He is a student at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina pursuing a Masters of Arts in Teaching: Secondary Social Studies. Zach will graduate in May of 2018 and plans to begin teaching in the fall.

Contact Zach at ZDRouth@NCSU.edu


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Wait! It’s Not Christmas Yet

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BY THE REV. CHAZ SNIDER |

Photo by Andrew David Cox

Often this time of year is associated with waiting, whether it is waiting in line at the mall to get that special present or waiting in traffic on the highway just to get to mall.

Maybe it is waiting in line to take your kids to go see Santa or waiting for Foothills to release its seasonal beer, the People’s Moravian Porter (something I know I have been waiting on).

It seems like we have been waiting for Christmas to come since October. I remember this year seeing Halloween and Christmas decorations next to each other at the store.

So when Thanksgiving has ended and we finished up all the leftovers it feels like Christmas has begun. Our Christmas trees go up, our sanctuaries get decorated, and the Moravian stars get hung up all over town. Christmas is here… right?

The answer (according to our liturgical calendar) is, well, no! We have to have Advent first and, then we get to Christmas.

Photo by Andrew David Cox

Advent is the four weeks leading up to Christmas. We may be used to seeing Advent wreaths or Advent calendars, but often times we don’t fully celebrate this time of year. (The Moravian star is also known as the Advent star). 

Advent is a time of preparing and getting ready. If we rush onto Christmas, we fail to get everything we can out of this special season in the church calendar.

I remember when I was kid I would examine the presents under the tree after my mom wrapped them. I would shake them, pick them up to see how much they weighed, each day trying to figure what was in them.

When I was allowed to open the first gift, I would base my choice on my in-depth research. All of that waiting, examining, and trying to figure it out would build up to the one choice of which gift would be opened first.

I rarely guessed right by the way. I still had no idea what was coming (except for Legos–they have a very distinct noise when shaken). 

Despite all my trying to figure it out, my excitement of opening that first gift was not diminished. And even though I still didn’t know what was coming, every year I kept examining the gifts under the tree anyways.

Image of young child in front of Christmas tree

Photo by Andrew Neel, via Unsplash.com

There are different kinds of waiting. There is a passive kind of waiting, where we do nothing until whatever we are waiting on arrives. Like waiting in traffic.

And there is also an active waiting–maybe “anticipation” is a good word for it. With that kind of waiting we prepare, we get things ready, we examine and reflect. We shake the box. What is it? What does it mean to us? 

That is what the season of Advent is about. It is about actively anticipating God coming into this world.

It is about reflecting on the areas of our life where God is already dwelling and examining the places where we hope God will enter into.

Christmas is about the entrance of God into the world in order to reconcile and heal all the fractured places.

Advent is about preparing ourselves for that coming. In Advent, we reflect on where reconciliation is needed and we hope for God to come with healing love.

That is even more important this Advent because our world, our country, and our society seem more broken, fractured, and divided than ever.

So remember it is not Christmas yet. Take time with the remaining weeks of Advent to stop, to reflect, to anticipate, to shake the box and prepare for the bursting forth of God in our world.

 


Photo of Chaz Snider

Rev. Chaz Snider is the pastor at Ardmore Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, NC


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