Monday, December 24, 2012

"See, the home of God is among mortals."

By David Wildman, United Methodist Church – General Board of Global Ministries

Our daughter and son were both born the week after Christmas. Each year our family experiences the hopes, the waiting and the expectations of Advent as very tangible, very earthy, and very fragile. The incarnation, God making a home with us mortals, like the birth of a baby, transforms our lives here and now! God’s vulnerability as a new born reveals how much God depends on our loving actions too!

Reading the text of Rev. 21:1-5 in Advent reminds us that Emmanuel, God with us, is not a one-time event that happened long ago, but God’s ongoing revolution in our lives and relationships with our neighbors today! The new heaven and new earth that Revelation depicts is not somewhere far off, but here among us now. A new Jerusalem coming into our lives is not built in a day. It embodies a promise to make all things new! The burden of old unjust, exploitative work relations will be replaced with relationships built on love, respect and justice for all its people.

But wait! Today, like in first century Palestine, all too many low wage workers live lives stuck in advent – a season of frustrated hopes, endless waiting, and lowered expectations – where Christmas never seems to come. We crave a quick fix to end the injustice and indignity that ravage workers’ lives. Do something God to end the widening inequality and exploitation that are tearing our society apart!

We are waiting for God to bring justice into our world. Yet this night, Emmanuel, the babe born in a manger, also waits for our hands to wipe away one another’s tears, to put an end to mourning. The text in Revelation is not calling us to a handkerchief ministry but an incarnational ministry of solidarity and love. As Mother Jones, the great labor organizer, declared, “Don’t mourn! Organize!”

Low wage workers in the early church who primarily heard the Bible read aloud would have heard the words of Isaiah echoed in the reading from Revelation 21. For Isaiah, God’s new heaven, new earth and new Jerusalem are to be built on a foundation of economic justice: “No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat… They will not toil in vain.” (see Isaiah 65:17-25)

For more than 16 years Interfaith Worker Justice has mobilized workers and faith communities to be about the work of a God who is making a home among us whose foundation is justice. This advent IWJ has joined with Walmart workers and warehouse workers to build a new Jerusalem where no one’s wages will be stolen. Each of the many worker centers and IWJ affiliates across the US embody a bit of a new Jerusalem as together we build communities founded on respect, equality and just wages. We invite you this advent to join with Interfaith Worker Justice in this incarnational labor of love.
A new city of justice is on the way!

“David Wildman’s devotional is part of InterfaithWorker Justice Advent Reflections. Gifts to support the work of Interfaith Worker Justice can be made through The Advance.”

Monday, December 17, 2012

Nothing better in The UMC than the Revive celebration

*A reflection by Albert Longe

A recent national gathering at Revive United Methodist Church, Manila, Philippines, drew thousands of attendees.
Photo by Albert Longe.
MANILA, Philippines – The Revive United Methodist celebration in Manila was an awesome day I will never forget. It represented a revival that the church as whole needs now. I believe there is nothing better in The United Methodist Church than worship and spiritual reflection on our journey to heaven and the welfare of society.
Seeing the thousands of people gathered for worship was an amazing way to learn that the Spirit is still working and can transform the circumstances of our church. God is still at work within The United Methodist Church, and the Philippines presence reminds our church globally to focus on the spiritual welfare of its members.
I was glad to see that people made a commitment to attend. Some traveled long distances to worship and revive the church. “At first,” commented Chief Justice Reynato Puno, the people called Methodists could be easily identified, but now it is proving to be difficult.” Strengthening the Methodist identity should be our passion and commitment. We must restore the concern on social holiness and not be as concerned about being politically correct.
I was happy to be at the Revive United Methodist Church and regret that other people from the United Methodist community could not attend. This was just a start, and I look forward to seeing the same done in other regions. We really need this, and nobody can deny that we must go back to our roots and revive the church. When the church is not revived, our ability to revive the world is limited. Everything is possible, and we must work hard to revive the spirituality of the church.

*Longe is a mission intern initially serving with the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc., a community-development agency in Manila, Philippines.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Christmas Message from the Street Children Ministry of the Methodist Mission of Cambodia

Missionary Clara Biswas reports that “we in Cambodia are privileged to continue preparing the way of Jesus by responding to his call to be in ministry with those around us.”

Dear Friends,

This Advent season, we with the Street Children Ministries in Cambodia celebrate with you the good news that our Savior, Jesus Christ, is born! Isaiah writes: “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”

John the Baptist “prepared the way of the Lord” over two millennia ago, and we in Cambodia are privileged to continue preparing the way of Jesus by responding to his call to feed, clothe, and educate the poor and underprivileged around us.

Through the Methodist Ministry of Cambodia, by the grace of God, we are preparing ourselves spiritually to glorify the Lord this Christmas. We are serving children who live on the streets of Phnom Penh, people with HIV/AIDS, and others who are sick. The children, sick people, and the poor who we work with on a daily basis are preparing for this Christmas season as well! Children regularly come to church to learn more about and worship the Lord, people who have HIV/AIDS join together to support one another in Christ and to worship weekly, and the Street Children Ministry staff are excited to contribute their time, energy, and creative efforts into preparing outings, leading Sunday school, and teaching at orphanages.

We are overjoyed with the unique opportunity we have to be in ministry with the poor and marginalized in Cambodia as they grow strong in their studies, social skills, vocational skills, and in Christ.

We have seen in Cambodia that God blesses people through people. You have been such a blessing to us and the children, men, and women we serve through your support and prayers this past year, and we sincerely thank you. Without your prayers and generous gifts, we are not able to do this wonderful ministry for the kids, sick, and poor in Cambodia. I am so grateful to you for your help!

We wish you a very happy Christmas and New Year 2013!
Yours in Christ,
Clara M. Biswas

Clara Biswas is a community worker with street children in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.