The Witness to Waiting

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Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.
— Frederick Buechner

Luke 1:5-25

5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

Witnesses to Wonder

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Q. How is the Word made effectual to salvation?
A. The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation.
— Westminster Shorter Catechism 89

Luke 1:1-4

1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

The Church as Presence

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Church buildings are visible emblems of Jesus’ street-level proximity and daily accessibility. He has ‘moved into the neighborhood’ (John 1:14, The Message). Church buildings are public outposts of the presence of God in the city’s commons.
— Duke Kwon

Ephesians 2:19-22

19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

The Church as Spiritual Formation

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Christians and churches should always feel a centrifugal force pulling them out towards proclamation in word and deed to the marginalized, the lost, & the vulnerable as well as a centripetal force pulling us towards the places, communities, and families that sustain us.
— Matthew Loftus
Personal sanctification is and intensely corporate and churchly act; being built up in Christ is being built up in the Church.
— E.L. Mascall

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1 Peter 2:1-12

1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
    a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone,”

and

“A stone of stumbling,
    and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

The Church as Light

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For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world.
— John Winthrop, 1630

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Matthew 5:14-16

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

The Church as Salt

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When we see our work as a good thing God gives us to do so we can bless our neighbor, it is inherently empowering; it gives us agency and encourages us to be creative in thinking of ways to dignify others
— Jake Meador

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Matthew 5:13

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.

Re-turn to the Lord

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The repentance that accompanies salvation is a continued act... Repentance is a continual spring, where the waters of godly sorrow are always flowing… The work of repentance is not the work of an hour, a day, a year, but the work of this life. A sincere penitent makes as much conscience of repenting daily as he doth believing daily…The penitent soul never ceases repenting till he ceases living. He goes to heaven with the joyful tears of repentance in his eyes.
— Thomas Brooks

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Hosea 14:1-19

1 Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God,
for you have stumbled because of your iniquity.
2 Take with you words
and return to the Lord;
say to him,
“Take away all iniquity;
accept what is good,
and we will pay with bulls
the vows of our lips.
3 Assyria shall not save us;
we will not ride on horses;
and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’
to the work of our hands.
In you the orphan finds mercy.”

4 I will heal their apostasy;
I will love them freely,
for my anger has turned from them.
5 I will be like the dew to Israel;
he shall blossom like the lily;
he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon;
6 his shoots shall spread out;
his beauty shall be like the olive,
and his fragrance like Lebanon.
7 They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow;
they shall flourish like the grain;
they shall blossom like the vine;
their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.

8 O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols?
It is I who answer and look after you.
I am like an evergreen cypress;
from me comes your fruit.

9 Whoever is wise, let him understand these things;
whoever is discerning, let him know them;
for the ways of the Lord are right,
and the upright walk in them,
but transgressors stumble in them.

The Sting of Death

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The monastic discipline of listening aims to still body and soul so that the words of a reading may sink in. Such silence tends to open a person, and opening oneself to a prophet as anguished as Jeremiah is painful. On some mornings, I found it impossible. Like one of my monk friends, who had the duty of reading the prophet aloud through some particularly grim passages, I felt like shouting ‘Have a Nice Day!’ to the assembly. Easier to mock a prophet than to listen to him.
— Kathleen Norris

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Hosea 13:1-16

1 When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling;

he was exalted in Israel,

but he incurred guilt through Baal and died.

2 And now they sin more and more,

and make for themselves metal images,

idols skillfully made of their silver,

all of them the work of craftsmen.

It is said of them,

“Those who offer human sacrifice kiss calves!”

3 Therefore they shall be like the morning mist

or like the dew that goes early away,

like the chaff that swirls from the threshing floor

or like smoke from a window.


4 But I am the Lord your God

from the land of Egypt;

you know no God but me,

and besides me there is no savior.

5 It was I who knew you in the wilderness,

in the land of drought;

6 but when they had grazed, they became full,

they were filled, and their heart was lifted up;

therefore they forgot me.

7 So I am to them like a lion;

like a leopard I will lurk beside the way.

8 I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs;

I will tear open their breast,

and there I will devour them like a lion,

as a wild beast would rip them open.


9 He destroys you, O Israel,

for you are against me, against your helper.

10 Where now is your king, to save you in all your cities?

Where are all your rulers—

those of whom you said,

“Give me a king and princes”?

11 I gave you a king in my anger,

and I took him away in my wrath.


12 The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up;

his sin is kept in store.

13 The pangs of childbirth come for him,

but he is an unwise son,

for at the right time he does not present himself

at the opening of the womb.


14 I shall ransom them from the power of Sheol;

I shall redeem them from Death.

O Death, where are your plagues?

O Sheol, where is your sting?

Compassion is hidden from my eyes.


15 Though he may flourish among his brothers,

the east wind, the wind of the Lord, shall come,

rising from the wilderness,

and his fountain shall dry up;

his spring shall be parched;

it shall strip his treasury

of every precious thing.

16 Samaria shall bear her guilt,

because she has rebelled against her God;

they shall fall by the sword;

their little ones shall be dashed in pieces,

and their pregnant women ripped open.

Wait Continually for God

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Faith is a way of waiting—never quite knowing, never quite hearing or seeing, because in the darkness we are all but a little lost. There is doubt hard on the heels of every belief, fear hard on the heels of every hope, and many holy things lie in ruins because the world has ruined them and we have ruined them. But faith waits even so, delivered at least from that final despair which gives up waiting altogether because it sees nothing left worth waiting for.
— Frederick Buechner
  • Service Date: August 11, 2019

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Hosea 11:12-12:14

12 Ephraim has surrounded me with lies,

and the house of Israel with deceit,

but Judah still walks with God

and is faithful to the Holy One.


1 Ephraim feeds on the wind

and pursues the east wind all day long;

they multiply falsehood and violence;

they make a covenant with Assyria,

and oil is carried to Egypt.


2 The Lord has an indictment against Judah

and will punish Jacob according to his ways;

he will repay him according to his deeds.

3 In the womb he took his brother by the heel,

and in his manhood he strove with God.

4 He strove with the angel and prevailed;

he wept and sought his favor.

He met God at Bethel,

and there God spoke with us—

5 the Lord, the God of hosts,

the Lord is his memorial name:

6 “So you, by the help of your God, return,

hold fast to love and justice,

and wait continually for your God.”


7 A merchant, in whose hands are false balances,

he loves to oppress.

8 Ephraim has said, “Ah, but I am rich;

I have found wealth for myself;

in all my labors they cannot find in me iniquity or sin.”

9 I am the Lord your God

from the land of Egypt;

I will again make you dwell in tents,

as in the days of the appointed feast.


10 I spoke to the prophets;

it was I who multiplied visions,

and through the prophets gave parables.

11 If there is iniquity in Gilead,

they shall surely come to nothing:

in Gilgal they sacrifice bulls;

their altars also are like stone heaps

on the furrows of the field.

12 Jacob fled to the land of Aram;

there Israel served for a wife,

and for a wife he guarded sheep.

13 By a prophet the Lord brought Israel up from Egypt,

and by a prophet he was guarded.

14 Ephraim has given bitter provocation;

so his Lord will leave his bloodguilt on him

and will repay him for his disgraceful deeds.

How Can I Give You Up?

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When God can find in man no reason for showing mercy to him, he still finds a reason for displaying his mercy, for he looks for it in his own heart.
— C.H. Spurgeon
  • Service Date: August 4, 2019

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Hosea 11: 1-11

1 When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
2 The more they were called,
the more they went away;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals
and burning offerings to idols.

3 Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk;
I took them up by their arms,
but they did not know that I healed them.
4 I led them with cords of kindness,
with the bands of love,
and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws,
and I bent down to them and fed them.

5 They shall not return to the land of Egypt,
but Assyria shall be their king,
because they have refused to return to me.
6 The sword shall rage against their cities,
consume the bars of their gates,
and devour them because of their own counsels.
7 My people are bent on turning away from me,
and though they call out to the Most High,
he shall not raise them up at all.

8 How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.
9 I will not execute my burning anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and not a man,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath.

10 They shall go after the Lord;
he will roar like a lion;
when he roars,
his children shall come trembling from the west;
11 they shall come trembling like birds from Egypt,
and like doves from the land of Assyria,
and I will return them to their homes, declares the Lord.