SECOND THURSDAY OF ADVENT
SCRIPTURE: ISAIAH 41:13-20
I am the LORD, your God,
who grasp your right hand;
It is I who say to you, "Fear not,
I will help you."
Fear not, O worm Jacob,
O maggot Israel;
I will help you, says the LORD;
your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.
I will make of you a threshing sledge,
sharp, new, and double-edged,
To thresh the mountains and crush them,
to make the hills like chaff.
When you winnow them, the wind shall carry them off
and the storm shall scatter them.
But you shall rejoice in the LORD,
and glory in the Holy One of Israel.
The afflicted and the needy seek water in vain,
their tongues are parched with thirst.
I, the LORD, will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
I will open up rivers on the bare heights,
and fountains in the broad valleys;
I will turn the desert into a marshland,
and the dry ground into springs of water.
I will plant in the desert the cedar,
acacia, myrtle, and olive;
I will set in the wasteland the cypress,
together with the plane tree and the pine,
That all may see and know,
observe and understand,
That the hand of the LORD has done this,
the Holy One of Israel has created it.
In reading today’s message from Isaiah, I’m reminded of how much God longs to be in relationship with me. Right away I read “I am the Lord, YOUR God.” MY God. God belongs to us all and knows and loves us with an agape love unlike any other being in this universe, but God is also MINE, if I choose Him to be of course. I am a bit overwhelmed as I read and soak in a small fraction of what God has done for me and the people who came before me. We go on to read of how God protects us and provides for us. There are countless passages like this one in which God tells us to not be afraid, simply because God is with us, always in our corner. We are people of constant need, but also people who have the ability to constantly give; to protect and provide as God does for us.
A few weekends ago I volunteered at the Riverwest Food Pantry in Milwaukee. If you have not been before, you MUST go. Go solo or pick-up a friend or bring a whole group -- your heart will be stirred in a way it hasn’t been before. My coworker and I drove a few vans of high school students to restock shelves, assist guests in their selection of food, help carry bags of groceries, and most importantly, be a kind and warm presence among a community of generosity. That is what the Riverwest Food Pantry is all about, being a community of generosity, rooted in the example of who our God is and forever will be. It was here that I had the opportunity to protect and provide for all gathered that morning at the food pantry.
It was just the week after the Thanksgiving holiday, and I wasn’t certain that everyone I would converse with that day had had the same turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and green bean casserole I was still digesting. The Riverwest Food Pantry is a no judgement zone (another thing I absolutely love about this place), and people come from all sorts of situations, but most importantly come together on Saturdays like this one to give and receive, protect and provide, in a variety of ways. With an abundance of volunteers that day, I found myself walking around collecting empty plates and cups from guests and volunteers enjoying hot coffee and egg bake together. One gentleman stopped me and asked me how my Thanksgiving was. We chatted for a bit, sharing our favorite dishes of the Thanksgiving meal; his sweet potato pie and mine mashed potatoes. We laughed as we rubbed our bellies and reminisced of how full we were on Thanksgiving Day. As I wished him and his friend a happy day and was swept away to grab more cans of green beans for our guests, I felt full again, but not in the way three slices of sweet potato pie and/or five scoops of mashed potatoes makes you feel full, but full only in a way the movement of the Holy Spirit combined with something good can make you feel full. In the spirit of no judgement, it is not my place to determine who did the giving and who did the receiving in my Thanksgiving talk with this kind gentleman, but I think it is safe to say we each did a little of both whether we knew it or not.
God gave us life and a gigantic world full of many things and invites us to join in on protecting and providing for the people God made to know and love. God is our ultimate protector and provider and works through each of us to reach the people who may not know God, or may not feel close to God, even if we ourselves are distant from, angry with, or uncertain of God. I’m in a constant search of seeing and knowing, observing and understanding, how the hand of the Lord works in my life. I delight in the moments when complete strangers in unfamiliar places, sharing in our love for different forms of potatoes, can end my search, even just for the time being.
When is the last time you felt full of God’s love?
Who or what made you feel full?
How are you protecting and providing for God’s people?
Kimberly VanBeek is a 20-something year old constantly in search for her purpose in life. She loves ultimate frisbee, Trader Joe’s, twinkly lights, and anything that kicks her in the feels. Kimberly currently is the Advancement Associate at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Milwaukee.