Agents of a New Normal


Isaiah angelScripture: Isaiah 6:1-8 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”


We cannot remain the same when we get a glimpse of the greatness and holiness of the Lord. Isaiah saw a vision of the Lord when he was in the temple and he experienced a deep conviction for his sin. He cries out, “Woe is me!” Not only did he experience personal conviction of his sin, he vicariously experienced the weight of his own people’s corporate sin that in many ways shut God out, with disastrous results.

Isaiah was a product of and participant in a social context described by spiritual lostness, futile worship practices, corrupt leadership, greed, injustice, and political crisis. Knowledge of his own sinfulness and the sinfulness of his own community created a crisis in him because he knows that he can never be the same after his vision of the greatness, the glory, and holiness of the Lord. He could either betray his vision and conviction, ignore God, and just keep on going along to get along in a world where brokenness was normalized. Or, he would have to live the rest of his life speaking up for a new normal of God’s reign, even if his speaking up meant rejection from family, friends, and society.

Isaiah chooses to offer his whole self for the mission to go to a moribund people with spiritually calloused hearts, dull ears, and closed eyes. He says, “Here I am. Send me!” In so doing, he reorders, realigns, and refocuses his life upon God and God’s mission for the world. God forgives Isaiah and sends him back into the world because God loves the world and seeks to save it (John 3:16-17). God turns Isaiah outward beyond himself, toward unity with God’s vision for the world and the world that God loves. Isaiah accepts and pursues the mission given to him by the Lord to proclaim an unpopular message of repentance, reconciliation, restoration, refreshing, and revival. Most of the people in his community would reject Isaiah’s ministry and message of God’s new normal. Some would eventually listen. Isaiah was faithful to his mission, the outcomes were left to God.

Like God sent Isaiah to a broken people, God sent his only son Jesus Christ to a broken world so that whosoever believes in him may not perish but have eternal life (Jn. 3:16-17). Christ sent the Holy Spirit to enable us to live as children of God and agents of hope in the Reign of God amid a broken world (Rom. 8:12-17).

Let us expectantly seek a new vision of the greatness, glory, and holiness of the Lord in the months to come as we practice our daily disciplines of worship, study, prayer, and meditation. A new vision will empower us to offer ourselves more fully as Christ’s agents of faith, hope, and love into and for the sake of a world that has normalized its brokenness.

The Covenant Prayer by John Wesley:

I am no longer my own but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed for you or laid aside for you, exalted for you or brought low for you. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.




Hoping and Waiting in a VUCA World – Pentecost Sunday, May 20, 2018

holy-spirit-come-beverly-guilliams (2)

Holy Spirit Come by Beverly Guilliams – Fine Art America

Scripture: Romans 8:22-27

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”


Our world can be described as volatile, uncertain, chaotic, and ambiguous or VUCA. VUCA is an acronym used to describe or to reflect on the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity of an extreme condition or situation. The term derives from military vocabulary resulting from the end of the Cold War in the early 1990’s. The dictionary defines the words for the abbreviated letters as follows:

  • Volatile: liable to change rapidly and unpredictably, especially for the worse. Likely to become dangerous or out of control.
  • Uncertain: Not exactly known or decided. Not definite or sure. Having some doubt about situations or outcomes.
  • Complex: Not easily explained or understood. Not simple.
  • Ambiguous: Having more than one possible meaning. Not expressed or understood clearly even when all the information is present.

VUCA is disruptive. Organizations assess VUCA conditions or situations to gain insight and foresight when strategizing approaches to mitigate and manage their next steps for their organization or business to ensure the greatest possibility of success.

The Christian community the apostle Paul writes to lives in a crazy death-ridden first-century Roman VUCA world. Their vision of a new creation where life would flourish was dimmed by the ever-present and overwhelming power of death and chaos in their lives. Their response was to withdraw, insulate, and isolate themselves from the crazy world because of their fears.

Paul writes to encourage and counsel the faith community in Rome to hold on to the hope that God is at work in the midst of their struggles and longings, creating, redeeming, and transforming the crazy VUCA world they live in.  God was now the center of their lives through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. No longer condemned and held in bondage by sin and or the fear of death, they were free to really live life to the fullest despite their circumstance.

The Roman Christians already had the power of God to remain in the struggles with courage and freedom undergirded by faith in God and hope for tomorrow. Their struggle is not meaningless. With God and for God, their struggle for a new creation has meaning and purpose.

Paul Tillich (Shaking the Foundations) describes waiting in hope for the new creation that we already possess as children of God this way: “But, although waiting is not having, it is also having. The fact that we wait for something shows that in some way we already possess it. Waiting anticipates that which is not yet real. If we wait in hope and patience, the power of that for which we wait is already effective within us. He who waits in an ultimate sense is not far from that for which he waits. He who waits in absolute seriousness is already grasped by that for which he waits.”

What the new creation will look like is unknown. But we can actively wait for the emergent new creation in hope. Like the first-century Christians living in a VUCA world, we too can trust in the power of God that is at work in the world through known and unknown ways. In the meantime, there is pain and troubles – birth pangs – but those pains and troubles are outweighed and overcome by the hope of a new creation that lies before us and which we already possess. The Holy Spirit enables us to imagine a different world, a new creation moving in the direction of ultimate redemption and healing. As such, we can look with hope beyond our own VUCA world and freely live life with a conviction and courage in the power of the Holy Spirit and in the knowledge that nothing, not even a crazy death-ridden VUCA world, could ever separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:31-39).

God is wise and good, making provision for the moments when we would experience weakness of courage, faith, or hope. God sent the Holy Spirit into the world to keep us connected with God through prayer, the conduit of God’s grace in our time of need (Phil. 4:4-6). May we seek, find, and experience the interceding presence of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives, renewing us at those times when we groan and begin to lose hope in the new creation amid the temporality of our VUCA world.

Prayer for the Presence of the Holy Spirit

Come, for you continue always unmoved,
yet at every instant you are wholly in movement;
you draw near to us who lie in hell,
yet you remain higher than the heavens.
Come, for your name fills our heart with longing
and is ever on our lips;
yet who you are and what your nature is, we cannot say or know.
Come, Alone to the alone;
Come, for you, yourself are the desire that is in me.
Come, my breath and my life.

(Simeon the New Theologian, in K. Ware, “The Holy Spirit in the Personal Life of the Christian,” in Unity in the Spirit [Geneva: WCC, 1979], pp. 139–69)


Spiritual Moms



Scripture: Psalm 1 Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers, but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law, they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper. The wicked are not so but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore, the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.


The message of the Psalmist is that happiness, or blessedness, does not come from doing what we want to do. Instead, happiness comes from doing what God wants for us to do. That is, we find happiness by doing the will of God. To know the will of God requires constant meditation and discernment – day and night (v.2).

It takes a spiritual guide to introduce us to the path of true happiness with God and in life. My first guide in the Christian life was my mother, Olga. Mom was my One Class Sunday School teacher in my early years.  She served as the church’s Christian Education, Vacation Bible School, Christmas and Easter play director. She is still active with the United Methodist Women, and in the life of the only church she’s been a loyal and faithful member of since 1960, First United Methodist Church in Rio Grande City, Texas.

Mom has been an intercessory prayer warrior for me all my life, and she still is. She is with me in spirit, even though miles and miles separate us. Mom introduced me to the pathway of happiness in God.  She nurtured me with spiritual grace, and by her witness, led me toward the path of blessedness that comes by doing God’s will. She looked well to the practical and spiritual ways of her household. I call her blessed (Proverbs 31:28).

I had the blessing of a mother who lives her faith in such a beautiful and compelling way that I too followed the path of faith. Perhaps you had or can remember an extraordinary woman (mom, stepmom, aunt, grandmother, great-grandmother, Sunday school teacher, neighbor, or other) in your life that nurtured you, affirmed you, loved you and served as your spiritual mother in the faith. If she is living, call her and thank her for the showing you the love of God in word and deed and for leading you to faith in Christ. If she is no longer living, say a prayer of thanksgiving for her life and witness. Afterall, she did the will of God by sharing faith, hope, and love with you and the world.


God of Provision and Unconditional Love,

On this day when we acknowledge the importance of motherhood among us, we first give thanks that you are a loving parent to us all. From your being all life was born, and in your bosom, all creation is nurtured. You have formed us in your image as your children and gathered us together as a brood under your wing. You have united us as kindred members of one human family, and we are grateful to be your offspring together. We celebrate your divine love, reflected in human expressions of motherhood.

We give you thanks for the mothers among us and ask that you strengthen them in their daily tasks. Grant them wisdom in the lessons they teach, patient in the discipline they foster, and persistence in their promotion of decency and compassion, both by word and example. May they be given the honor and thanks they deserve but often do not receive.

We thank you for all motherly figures: grandmothers, aunts, sisters, wives, step-mothers, foster mothers, guardians, babysitters, teachers, health care providers, neighbors, friends, loved ones, and many others, who practice self-sacrifice and embody compassion to all who are privileged to be in their influence. Grant them vigor to carry on their work, and the satisfaction that the holy privilege of their task affords.

We acknowledge to you, O God, that even amid our grateful celebration, many of us come with restless spirits, reluctant to name the difficulties of this day.

For some, this day brings the sorrowful awareness of their own inability to conceive biological children. Draw your tender spirit near their feelings of self-betrayal, impotence, and grief, and remind them that those who struggle with infertility have always shared a special place in your heart. We pray for those who have suffered miscarriages, those fatigued by fertility treatments, and those struggling through the process of adoption. May they remember that in your power and through your church, they can still leave a lasting legacy beyond themselves.

For some, this day is marked by loneliness and grief, as they spend this first Mother’s Day as a widower, an orphan, or a parent who has lost a child. To those who today live in the wake of the death of a loved one, grant glimpses of the resurrection. Bring to them a steady restoration of their broken hearts.  Allow them to live into their future with hope, and empower them to carry out the legacy of lessons instilled within them.

For some, this is a day that surfaces ongoing tensions that exist within our personal relationships and family dynamics. We ask for healing from the wounds of our past, a path of forgiveness for wrongs both experienced and committed, and the rebuilding of trust forged in honesty, authenticity, and love.

We give you thanks for the wide spectrum of motherhood represented among us today: new mothers and young mothers whose children are in their most tender years; mothers of grown children who transition into empty nests and a new chapter of self-discovery; mothers and grandmothers of advanced years, whose twilight of life is marked by frailty of body but a potency of spirit. Theirs is a cumulative reminder that though our lives are marked by transition and change, your nurture and affection for all your children remains the same.

Therefore, remind us to live with child-like faith, curious to every wondrous mystery, attentive to your every instruction, obedient to your every command, and willing to share with every one of your children. We give you thanks, O God, who is a loving Mother and Father to us all, and in whose name we pray,


Prayer for Mothers provided by Discipleship Ministries, The United Methodist Church