Hold On, Just For A Moment!

I was watching a college football halftime show and one of the analysts was lamenting to extent to which Covid-19 had upset normalcy in society and particularly its impact on the unencumbered play of college football.  Like the rest of us are impacted, all players, coaches, fans, and schools have been affected.  The schools with big-time programs also have experienced major economic hits as their football programs provide millions of dollars in revenue.  Taking a stab at humor, there was a paper shredder on the table and the analyst making the complaints started shredding pieces of paper with the year 2020 emblazoned in bold letters.

For certain, 2020 has been a tough year around the globe, but before it passes into obscurity let’s not ditch it before looking to see if there are lessons we can glean from it.  Here are a few thoughts:

  • It’s not 2020’s fault.  Sure, there is symbolic blame we can cast on it, but when the clock reaches 12:01am on January 1, 2021 we will face the same challenges as we did in March 2020.  It was only a year ago when we were looking forward to saying “Happy New Year” as 2019 came to a close.  While there may be light at the end of the tunnel because of the pending availability of vaccines, it may be mid-summer before we have universal availability in this country, not to mention other countries around the world.  The challenges of economic and emotional recovery will loom large well into 2021…and there are no guarantees, which brings me to the next point.      
  • If nothing else, this experience, hopefully, has taught us and continues to teach us that we don’t have the control over our environment we thought we had.  Scientific and technological advances combined with the relative wealth of living in a “1st world” country can create an illusion of sovereignty, unlimited personal agency and even arrogance.  Nope!  No matter how far advanced we become, there have always been historical events beyond the control of persons, individual and collective wealth, scientific expertise, and governmental strength that remind us that we are neither transcendent nor unlimited.  Perhaps it was just our time.  This alone should humble us…and keep us humble.
  • The only tests of resilience are difficulties.  Endurance is only needed when there is something to overcome.  This past year has required, of all of us, resilience and endurance.  For some, it has been more so than for others.  Still, I suspect it will continue to be so as we try to recover, adapt, and move forward.  And perhaps the resilience and endurance we’ve had to demonstrate in 2020 will give us confidence for whatever we may face in the future.

So, before we throw 2020 away into the dustbin of forgetfulness, let’s take time to see what else it might say to us that can actually help us in 2021.  May the new year give you clear eyes to see and fresh ears to hear what the Spirit is saying.  

Blessings.

© Byron L. Hannon, 2020.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.                

Advent Memo

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”                                                                                (Luke 2:11-14)

Asking the question, “Didn’t you get the memo?” or hearing someone say, jokingly, “I must not have gotten the memo” is a pretty common and light-hearted way of talking about instances of not getting a piece of information that everyone else seems to have gotten.  This passage from Luke is a memo of sorts sent, not to the elite of society (I suspect there was a shortage of elites in rural Bethlehem), but instead to some blue-collar outdoor workers assigned to the night shift.  

The message to them was one of peace.  I’ve always preferred to look at these words as GOD extending, by way of His Son, a peace offering to the humanity that was estranged from Him.  The relationship between GOD and His greatest creation was broken and dysfunctional.  The healing of relationships always requires someone taking the first step.  GOD took the first step and extended a hand.  

Many since then have taken the memo to heart and have made peace with GOD, through Jesus Christ, and have experienced the reality of a peace that is hopeful and which sustains through time or circumstance.  Quite a few are alive today; I’m blessed to know some. 

Still, we seem to live in an environment where harmony and benevolence (mutual peace and goodwill) is in too short supply.  Caustic attitudes, self-centeredness, anger, resentment and even worse, with the attendant justifications and confusion, seems the order of the day for enough folks that it’s impossible to ignore. Did they not get the memo?  If not, why not?  It’s not like anyone is hiding it.  It’s there for everyone.   If they did get it, are they ignoring it as if there is no downside to ignoring it?  What’s up with that?

One of the dynamics of peace with GOD is that it leads to peace with others.  GOD apparently values peace a great deal.  See Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God” i.e. those who intentionally seek and make peace with others bear a resemblance to their Father in heaven.  

I’m not speaking of false peace which is just an absence of visible conflict or where animosity is suppressed behind a false face.  The peace I refer to is rooted in and flows from such a deep reverence and regard for GOD (love) that it translates into a deep, unselfish regard (love) for everyone else’s humanity.  It makes no distinction.  Jesus spoke to this when He said that loving GOD with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength is the greatest commandment and second to that is loving our neighbor as ourselves.  

We can’t experience this if we don’t have or really want His peace within, if we didn’t read the memo or take it to heart.  It is there for the taking.  Take it!  Though others may choose not to, don’t settle for less than GOD’s best.    

As we approach the celebration day for the first Advent of Jesus Christ, let us recall what Paul, an   Apostle of Christ, said from his imprisonment: Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus…Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Read the memo.  Selah.

© Byron L. Hannon, 2020.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted. 

ADVENT(URE)

A common word heard in the Church community this time of year is “Advent.”  It is a noun that means that something waited for is finally here.  Something important has occurred.  With the ubiquitous presence of smartphones, for example, the advent of the next generation of (pick your favorite brand) is enough for some people to wait in longs line (queues, for my European readers) in order to have the privilege of paying an outrageous sum of money to have better “bells and whistles” on your cellphone than the cellphone you’re replacing.  Everyone experiences advent in some context.

In the broader Church community, Advent refers to the first coming of Jesus as the promised Messiah (Hebrew version of Christ), the spiritual basis for the holy-day, Christmas.  Brief sidebar here: Messiah/Christ means GOD’s Anointed One.  The Church also anticipates a second Advent in the return of Jesus (that certainly would qualify as being pretty important), something promised multiple times in the documentation of prophecies in both the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and in the New Testament.

So now that the primer is out of the way, let me get to what’s on my mind.  I don’t know why this never occurred to me before, but I’m now struck by the thought that the root of Adventure is Advent.  Am I the only one caught by this?  It’s doubtful, but I don’t ever recall anyone talking about this.

An adventure is the experience of something exciting, bold and maybe even risky.  There is, at its core, the idea of an arriving or a happening as a result of this exciting, bold, and/or risky step.  Adventure has described my life from the day I became a follower of Jesus.  My arrival at this choice to belong to Him and subsequent, related choices in the decades following, can be characterized by all three words: excitingbold and risky.  My life with Christ has been an adventure.  Not that most days have been high mountaintop experiences or low-in-the valley challenges, but on the whole, this is a life I could never have foreseen or planned, nor would I would trade it for anything other.  

Of course, there have been scary times, rocky places, high moments and some lows.  There have been questions by others about the wisdom and practicality of my commitments.  I’ve had to walk away from some folks who couldn’t get it and from vocational and personal pathways incongruent with this life.  I was once told, after resigning from a pretty lucrative career in order to begin preparing for pastoral ministry, that it was like I was bungy-jumping naked from the 57th floor of the high rise I worked in.  There’s a picture for you…a scary one on multiple levels!  I was actually in an office on the 57th floor when I was told this.    

I’ve had to sacrifice in multiple ways, including my right to define my own morality.  And I’m not alone in this…my wife, partner, and best friend chose to come along for the ride (thankfully!) knowing that it would cost her, too.  

Still, the pluses have been so much greater, in quality and quantity, than anything I have sacrificed, the most significant being that I “know a living Savior who’s in the world today” up close and personally.  This is not a cliché.  I know Him and He knows me; and because of this I take time to count my blessings, and man, there are so many and often beyond my comprehension!  More than once He has spoken to me in as close to being an audible voice without actually being audible, including once while I was driving alone on the Penna. Turnpike wrestling with a Big problem.  His presence in that car was so tangible, I literally turned to look at the passenger seat to see who was talking.  I can go on and on, but I won’t.             

My point is that because of the first Advent of Christ, I have experienced a great adventure.  And it’s not over!  I, like everyone else, don’t know how many remaining days I have, but as long as I’m here, I look forward to the Advent of Christ still to come.  That will usher in the ultimate adventure for “no eye has seen nor ear has heard, and no human mind has conceived the things GOD has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).    

Blessings to you and yours this Christmas because He’s real and He is for real.

© Byron L. Hannon, 2020.  All rights reserved to text content unless noted otherwise. 

Family

I grew-up disconnected from most of my extended biological family, although they are quite numerous, particularly on my father’s side (he was the second oldest of 15 children).  Consequently, I have (or had) lots aunts and uncles and a slew of cousins, most of whom I’ve never met. The reasons for that disconnection are complex and due to a family dysfunction that was in play before I was born; I was just one of the beneficiaries of it.

Thanks to one of my uncles, who used to stay with us during the summers when he was a college student and I was very young, I later learned a lot about the history of my dad’s family.  As a child, I had a special affection for Uncle Joe.  He was ten years younger than my father and still had enough play in him that I just enjoyed being with him.  I looked forward to him arriving every summer to work at the candy factory on the boardwalk in Asbury Park.  

One of his later in life hobbies was genealogy which he took seriously.  His research was pretty extensive, going back to my great-great-great-grandmother, a slave woman named Lucinda owned by a family from whom my family takes our last name.  He did research into that family as well and shared much of what he found with anyone in our family who was interested.  I was interested and have a lot of that documentation, including some very dated pictures.

I later connected with one of my dad’s younger sisters, and through her I met several cousins, her children and the children of other siblings of my father.  Some of those connections have been in person and some by Facebook® because they live so far away.  Sadly, a few of those face-to-face meetings have been at family funerals.  Still, establishing these connections has been a nice addition to my life; they have filled in some voids for which I’m happy.  One of my west coast cousins sent me a picture I didn’t have: my great-grandmother (b. 1867 – d.1944), and the family resemblance is uncanny.  These things are valuable nuggets to me, and I look to pass them on whenever I can.

The day Thanksgiving, two of our grandchildren (18 and 16yrs) surprised visited us.  My wife’s birthday was on Thanksgiving, and although they had called to wish her a happy birthday (we didn’t do the family gathering we normally do because of Covid concerns), they decided we needed a face-to-face visit.  When the doorbell rang, I asked my wife if she was expecting anyone, to which she said “No.”  I opened the door and there they stood with their Covid masks on.  They came in and hung-out with us for a while.  

It was good visit.  We got caught-up on how our granddaughter was faring in her first semester of college and how our grandson (a high school junior) was dealing with going to school a couple of days a week and the rest of the week taking virtual classes.  We talked about their aspirations and even some of their struggles and concerns, all of this with the TV on as background noise in the room where we sat.

I noticed our grandson scanning some of the pictures we have on a bookcase, pictures of various family members, and decided to pull out some others of their dad and our two daughters (their aunts), when all of them were very young.  I passed three or four of the pictures around, and it generated some conversation and few chuckles.  Before long they said their goodbyes and left, headed to the Panera Bread® a few miles from our home. 

As I was putting those pictures back into the albums, I was thinking that there is so much about our family my family members don’t know, and I would love to share it with them.  Isn’t the transfer of important information one of the responsibilities and privileges of older family members?   

I don’t want to push it on them.  Perhaps one day, they’ll develop an interest and an appetite for it.

© Byron L. Hannon, 2020.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise indicated.                              

On Earth As It Is In Heaven

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Jesus speaking in Matthew 5:17)

We’ve entered Advent season; what some describe as “the most wonderful time of the year.”  I agree that it is wonderful, not because of the traditional Christmas scenes which are often lovely and evocative of pleasant nostalgia, but because it focuses our attention on GOD’s gift offering of reconciliation and peace between He and humanity, namely Jesus Christ.  We don’t hear much about that offer of peace outside of the Church.  The truth is we needed GOD to make that move for us.

Lately, I’ve been studying portions of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible).  After the creation story, the entrance of sin and death into the world, and foundation-setting for establishing  a godly human family, all found in Genesis, the remaining four books are essentially about the immense culture change that was needed for that human family to experience a distinctive spiritual formation leading to godliness.  I am currently nearing the end of Leviticus, a book that might as well be labeled, “GOD is perfect and holy.  If you want to be His, you be perfect and holy, too.”

That’s just the overview.  Wait until you get into the details…and there’s a lot!  The requirements of GOD, both in terms of what was to be done to be holy and what was not to be done to remain holy is just about beyond description.  It virtually (some would say “literally”) covered every aspect of human life, including things most of us would never think about as important.  But they’re important to GOD who reminded us that His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9) and that nothing impure, imperfect, or defective in any way was acceptable to Him.

Though it’s not my first time in Leviticus, I haven’t studied it in a while.  I’m newly struck by the breadth and depth and height of GOD’s perfection and by how short of His mark I fall.  I’m struck by how much He demanded of those who He called “His people.”  Each time I open Leviticus, I see at least one requirement that I haven’t met; usually it’s more than one.  It would actually be discouraging to keep a list with each day of study.   

These weren’t the kinds of things to shrug-off as in “Oh well, I messed up again.”  No, there were penalties tied to these failures, some of them quite severe.  “Be holy as I am holy” has never been a small thing, a throw-away line, although we may treat it as such.  GOD is serious about His holiness and understanding this explains so much about the travails of national Israel throughout their history.  Impossible to comply is a phrase I would apply to trying to live this kind of life, and that is ultimately the point.  

In the “short-term” (what we call B.C. or B.C.E.), GOD showed mercy and grace to those who fell short of His mark of perfection and humbly acknowledged their shortcoming in confession and repentance.  He forgave them for their sin, reestablishing them in right relationship.  But as the Bible says, in the fullness of time, He sent His Son who lived that life of absolute, perfect holiness.  

Although Jesus never sinned, He took the sins of the world onto Himself, paying the penalty once for all.  He was the One who never fell short of GOD’s mark in anyway, and in that, fulfilled the requirements of all of the Law, including what is specified in Leviticus.  I am so glad for Jesus.  I needed Him to do for me what I was incapable of doing for myself.  I fell short…a lot; He didn’t…ever. 

In Romans 8:1, Paul the Apostle says, “Therefore, now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (underline mine).  Who is that condemnation for?  It is for those who, with their own merit, don’t meet GOD’s perfect standards of holiness.  But for those whose hope, trust, faith and life have been placed into the life of GOD’s only begotten Son, there is no condemnation because He is the perfection of GOD’s holiness in every way.

All of the reminders of this makes this most wonderful season of all for me.  I pray that it is so for you as well.

© Byron L. Hannon, 2020.  All rights reserved for text content unless otherwise noted.                  

Come On, Church!

While I haven’t seen it in a while, I used to enjoy the “Come On, Man” segment on the ESPN® Monday Night Football pregame show.  Do they still do it?  For the uninitiated, the segment highlighted bone-headed plays and player behavior from different games from prior weeks. Each analyst on the pre-game show would select several plays they wanted to highlight, a video would show the play and the behavior, which would always be something head-scratching, and the analyst would say, with disdain in his voice, “Come on, man!”  The underlying, unstated message always was, “You need to do better than that.”

In truth, the saying is a lot older than the sport show’s use.  I’ve heard it from others and have said it myself for many years as a reaction to seeing or hearing something from someone that provoked an incredulous reaction in response to their behavior or comment, “Come on, man!”  It’s another way of saying, “Are you serious!?” or “Are you for real!?” or “You’re kidding me, right!?” or “I can’t take you seriously!” or “That was messed up!”

If you’ve been following me at all, you know that I have a great love for the Church.  I’ve spent most of my adult life in it, both as a lay member and as clergy.  I write about it, directly or indirectly, much of the time.  I read a lot about it.  I have studied the Church from its inception to current times, and the most of its developments, transitions, struggles, successes and failures in between.  I believe it to be a mystical body with a holy, transcendent purpose.  And sometimes, I think we are living beneath our calling and beneath our privilege.

The various philosophical methods developed over the centuries to “prove” GOD’s existence and the validity of Christianity aside, my study, my reason, and my experiences (including my observations) combine to affirm GOD’s reality.  The holy and transcendent are not and cannot be products of human wisdom and creativity.  Therefore, participation in them come from invitations from above and these invitations and participation have specific modes (e.g. grace, the Holy Spirit, acknowledgement of sin, repentance, faith, rebirth, self-emptying humility, and intimate spiritual relationship expressed through obedience, study for understanding and wisdom and regular prayer).  

The faith on which the Church was founded was never intended to join the list of the world’s philosophies.  It was to stand apart as the distinctive, earthly body of the heavenly and holy person of Jesus Christ.  Without that distinctiveness, Christianity can’t be anything but one among many human philosophies rooted in an argument not a person.  

The invitations have come from above, but the response and participation within the Church is uneven and sometimes lacking.  This is even more the case when the Church’s attention moves away from Christ, His will and His ways, and focuses its passion on other issues, causes, concerns and their associated wills and ways.  The result: a confused purpose, diminished power to witness, and inconsistent ability to demonstrate transformation into Christlikeness, the intended fruit of faith.

Come On, Church!   

© Byron L. Hannon, 2020.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.   

Step Away

“…Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?” (1 Corinthians 5:6)

Looking back on life, I realize how much energy I’ve exerted trying to avoid toxic things.  That goes for situations and, occasionally, people.  I’m not referring to the common aggravating things that are part of everyone’s life that tend to bum you out, but rather the situations which (and people who) so negatively affect your outlook and attitude that only removal of yourself enables you to restore equilibrium.  And failure to remove yourself may cause you to either assume aspects of that toxicity within yourself or experience feelings of having a weighted soul (oppression).

This was a periodic challenge in the corporate settings in which I worked whenever office politics became pronounced and people were trying to assert power in obvious and (in what sometimes appeared to me to be) cynical ways, when people were jockeying for power and prestige, or when something went wrong and avoidance of responsibility and c.y.a. was the ingrained habitus.  Demonstrating skill in these areas, i.e. functioning in the midst of toxicity, along with demonstrating competence in an assigned area of responsibility, was a way folks survived and even thrived.  This wasn’t a constant, but it became prevalent enough that I had to leave.  Thankfully, GOD provided me a way out.

Of course, toxic environments and people are not exclusive to business settings; we find them in every arena in life.  And I think the dynamics in them are essentially the same regardless of the setting, become a part of the toxicity or recognize what it is and how it stands to impact and step away (mentally and emotionally, if not physically).  Unfortunately, I think many people who have opted to adapt to toxic environments don’t realize that they have done so.  They’re like the Fabreze® commercials; they become nose blind to it.  They don’t see anything irregular or harmful to themselves or to others, often despite the reaction of others to them.  

Scripture frequently used yeast, a leavening and fermentation agent, as symbolic of sin.  In the story of the exodus, the ancient Israelites were told by GOD to not use yeast in their baking of bread at the time of the Passover.  Later, they were told not to use it in preparation for certain sacrificial offerings.  In the New Testament, both Jesus and Paul used yeast as a metaphor for sin or that which leads to sin.  

Anything toxic (literally, anything harmful and capable of causing injury) influencing our spiritual selves is a sign that yeast is present and at work.  It is harmful to us and to those around us because yeast affects whatever it touches.  Adopting attitudes and behaviors which are toxic is sinful because they do not reflect the love of GOD nor love of others, regardless of how they manifest themselves.  I’m convinced it’s one of the reasons Jesus talked about the importance of having eyes that see and ears that hear.                                       

When I see it in myself, the antidote is to acknowledge and deal with it before GOD in an honest and non-defensive way.  When I experience it in situations or in others, I will try to speak to it as graciously as I can and may make it a matter of prayer.  After that and if nothing changes, I usually step away.  It takes too much energy to remain in the midst of that. 

© Byron L. Hannon, 2020.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.    

Write What You Know?

I subscribe to a couple of book reviews because I like to see what professional authors are writing about.  Occasionally I come across books which I buy or, at least, put on my “To Be Bought Later” list for when I have more time to read them.  The list has gotten rather long.

Several weeks ago, I was reading a review of a book on the art of writing.  The reviewer quoted a point a book author made about the often-used piece of advice to new writers: “Write what about you know.”  He was critical of that point saying that if writers only wrote about what they were familiar with, their works would eventually become pedestrian and redundant.  I’m not certain I fully agree with him, although I understand what his intent was.  When I was preaching every Sunday, I would sometimes say to my congregation, “I only have one sermon topic; I just preach it 52 ways.”  I think there is room within seeming sameness for creative variety.

Nevertheless, I think an important issue concerning how we express ourselves, regardless of the medium (writing, music, art, Facebook® and Instagram® posts, podcasts, or sidewalk conversations), is whether we are taking opportunity to expand on what we know.  How much more interesting life is when we learn things we didn’t know before, when we take an interest in something that is outside of existing knowledge base and comfort zone.  I’ll even spiritualize the point for a moment: In small and sometimes big ways we can bless others when our willingness to learn new things is used by GOD in unexpected ways.  I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”  Expanding what we know is preparation for opportunities only GOD knows are ahead.  Okay, I’m done spiritualizing. 

A friend who plays several musical instruments, was asked by someone how he became so good a musician.  My buddy’s response was, “I practice.”  A few years ago, I met an elderly woman at a retreat center who was there on a six month sabbatical.  She was retired and had been widowed for a little over a year.  As a younger woman, she had developed an interest in fine art.  Despite taking a few classes, life’s other’s responsibilities got in the way and she didn’t pursue it the way she wanted.  Now that her children were grown and independent and she was a widow, she had decided to devote her time to pursuing her interest with a vengeance, thus her sabbatical.  After telling me this story over dinner, she asked if I’d like to see some of her work which was displayed in the retreat center’s art gallery.  She had multiple paintings and drawings on four separate walls of the gallery, and they were all phenomenal.  How many people do we admire because of some perceived talent they have that we enjoy?  Chances are their talent has been honed because of lots of practice. 

Have you been itching to learn how to play guitar?  Go ahead and get started.  Sure, the tips of your fingers will get sore and maybe even blister, but you can overcome that.  Those blisters will turn into callouses.  Keep going!  How many years have you been talking about learning that second language?  There are so many inexpensive tools that you can access to help you; you just have to make up your mind that you’re going to put in the work.  Of course, it’s going to take time, but so did the things you already know.  In this season of Covid-19, is there time for you to take that online course you’ve been thinking about?  If you have time, perhaps the only thing stopping you is your will to do it.                    

Back in the day, “go for what you know” was a common expression in my peer group.  It means make the best choice you can based on your understanding.  The greater your understanding, the more you can go for.  I will continue to write what I know, but my desire and my plan is to know more…and write about that too.

What about you?

© Byron L. Hannon, 2020.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.      

Being About Our Father’s Business

“Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” 

(Philippians 2:4)

For a dozen years, my spiritual vision has been heavily influenced by a passage in Isaiah 61, a passage I was “led” to several months before becoming aware that I would be offered the lead pastor role in my local church (a position I held for nine years and from which I retired 2 ½ years ago).  At the time of this “leading” I was initially unclear as to why I felt so burdened and enamored with the words, some of which Jesus quoted when He began His public ministry in Nazareth (Luke 4:14-20).  Clarity came a few months later as I began the journey of leading a church.  I would lean on the words from Isaiah through periods of joy, uncertainty and struggle; they were my north star.

One of the Isaiah’s declarations in that passage was that those who benefited from the spiritual freedom promised in the first portion of this prophecy (fulfilled in and through Jesus), would go on to become “oaks of righteousness.”  The simple meaning of this is that those who received this great blessing from GOD would, in turn, extend it to others who had the need to be blessed with this same freedom themselves.  In other words, we would “pay it forward.”

The responsibility of the believer extends beyond coming to the table to be spiritually fed (the purpose of worship, study and fellowship gatherings); it is also to do the work of serving the needs of others i.e. ministry.  Recall the words of Jesus, “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…” (Mark 10:45).  That’s a principle reason for the existence of the Church, to serve others (not just ourselves or our family and close friends).  There are many, many ways to serve others, and my current responsibilities have allowed me to see some of the wonderful ways in which different church groups have taken this to heart with corps of people stepping into sometimes unfamiliar situations in order to help others.  

One way of service I believe the world needs more of is intercession.  The hardships faced by persons, societies and nations are profound.  Whether in our personal relationships or more broadly, we don’t have to look far to see calamities dancing on the horizon (or closer), just waiting to interfere with our peace.  It’s way past time for the sunsetting of the “I’m okay; you’re okay” individualistic philosophy prominent in previous decades.  A lot of people are not okay, and they are not getting better.  Who is there to stand in the gap between their need and their hope?  

In one sense, the entire biblical story is one of intercession.  Patterns of it flow throughout.  GOD Himself interceded on humanity’s behalf in the Garden.  Joseph interceded on behalf of his imperiled family who had previously done him dirty and out of them grew the people we call Israel.  Moses interceded for the newly freed and disobedient Israelites when GOD was so frustrated with them that He considered doing away with them altogether.  The Aaronic priesthood was established as an intercessory body for the benefit of GOD’s people.  Jesus’ prayer, “Father forgive them because they don’t know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:24) was an intercession on behalf of those who brutalized and crucified Him and all those who condoned His death.  Paul the Apostle tells us that even now, Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father making intercession for His people (Roman 8:34).  So, if He is doing that for us, we can do it for others.  Right? 

The Church of Jesus Christ (all Christian churches regardless of branch or denomination) was established as a priesthood of believers (1 Peter 2:9).  As priests of the Lord, we have a great opportunity and responsibility to stand in the gap that separates the deepest needs of others from their deepest hope.  Our relationship with the risen Lord enables us to be hedges of protection others need in times of difficulty and darkness and the arrow which can point them to that place (Person) in whom true and lasting freedom is found.  

This too is the work of our Father which we can be about.  Pick someone you know who desperately needs someone to pray for them and commit to doing so until GOD does something powerful in their lives.  They don’t even have to know you’re doing it.  Be an oak of righteousness for their sake.                           

© Byron L. Hannon, 2020.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.