Intergenerational Faith Sharing

“The Boy Jesus in the Temple” by Heinrich Johann Hofmann

Scripture: And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor (Luke 2:52).

Reflection: Six grandchildren have come into our lives over the past two years. They are preacher’s kids, so they attend church every Sunday with their parents, and they participate in other Christian formation activities during the week. We live in Kansas. They live in Texas. So we do not have the opportunity to regularly worship with them as an extended family, but we often receive Snapchats of our grandchildren in church settings singing songs of praise, learning, roaming around in the sanctuary, or playing on church grounds. Our grand-children are comfortable on church grounds, it is like a safe second home to them. On church grounds, they are seen, listened to, loved, cared for, included, and valued by the people who are part of their respective church communities. The church communities take responsibility and joy in helping our children shape their children’s Christian faith. As a community of faith, they love and care for our grand-children and do all in their power to increase their faith, confirm their hope, and perfect them in love.  

Jesus was at home in the temple, his Father’s house. Jesus was safe in the temple – for now. He was listened to, loved, cared for, included, and valued as part of the community. The temple teachers opened a space for a young 12-year old Jesus to join them so that he could listen in on their adult dialogue. In a society where children were to be seen but not heard, Jesus was given the opportunity to join in and ask questions of his elders and teachers. He was also valued enough to be asked for his thoughts on the subjects of discussion. His responses were respectfully received by the teachers who were amazed at his understanding and his answers.

The story of Jesus in the temple sitting among his older teachers is a fantastic story of a powerful intergenerational faith dialogue that values and includes members of a community, models how to openly share perspectives in our churches, and models how to nurture mutual understanding and appreciation for each other across generations.  The way forward for our church is dependent on seeking out and welcoming children and youth in our communities into our faith communities, especially the children that are not “our” biological or socially connected child. As we receive the children in our communities regardless of their race, nationality, or language, as we listen to them, love them, care for, include, and value them, we will be amazed at what we will learn from them and where the Spirit will lead us through them. Perhaps it will be the children whom Christ will use to increase our faith, confirm our hope, perfect us in love, and lead us forward in divine and human favor.

Prayer: O Lord, enable our churches to be welcoming, nurturing, and safe places for all of God’s children and lead us all in the increase our faith, the confirmation of our hope, and the perfection of our love.

Hope for Tomorrow, Today Third Sunday of Advent

Scripture: Isaiah 12:1-6 – You will say in that day: I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, and you comforted me. Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the LORD GOD is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. With joy, you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

Reflection: Have you ever longingly hoped for and spoken of a better day to come when you felt shackled and limited by your circumstance? Have you ever been at a place in life when you wondered, “How or when are we ever going to get out of this mess or recover from this catastrophe?”

Sometimes the circumstances of our lives can be so challenging, we can find it hard to even imagine things getting better anytime soon, or ever. We see it difficult to trust in or sing praises to the Lord for salvation that seems distant, even impossible when we are shackled with troubles in the present. We ask, “Where is God in all this?”

The prophet Isaiah casts a vision of a good but distant future for Israel when they in captivity to Assyria. That day to come Isaiah speaks of is seemingly impossible for a downtrodden and defeated people to imagine, much less attain from where they are historically located.  The harshness of their lives as captives had all but extinguished their capacity to hope and believe their troubled life could ever be different.

Isaiah’s vision proclaims that in the future, God will free, and restore a forgiven Israel. In that day to come, Israel will look back on their experience of captivity to Assyria and their deliverance by God from it with thanksgiving. On that day to come, they will exalt God for their liberation with joy, song, and story. But that day will happen in the distant future. For now, they are shackled in captivity to Assyria.  

Even though the lived experience of Israel in captivity is harsh and their salvation lies in the distant future, the Israelites can draw their hope from God’s well of salvation. They can participate in acts of rejoicing, praise, song, and story in their present state of captivity because they are already becoming forgiven, freed, and restored by God who is faithful. Therefore, as Walter Brueggemann says in his book, The Prophetic Imagination, the Israelites can ‘embarrassingly have hope in a good future that flies in the face of all those claims they have been told are facts. They can refuse to accept the reading of reality, daring to announce that the present is now called into question.’ The anguishes and fears the Israelites experience because of their present troubled state are rendered powerless by drawing embarrassingly from the hope of God’s deep and everflowing well of salvation, salvation already present, but not yet fulfilled.

We do not have to wait until everything in our lives, our church, or our world is perfect before we can live secure, with joy, and at peace. We may find ourselves in difficulties today, but our deep-sourced hope in our already and not yet salvation unshackles us from the anguishes and fears of our present circumstance as we trust Jesus Christ, our strength and our might, our living water (John 7:38), who has become our salvation. In that spirit of hope, the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards our heart and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6).

Hymn of Prayer:

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.

Refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O Come, thou Wisdom from on high, and order all things far and night; to us the path of knowledge show and cause us in her ways to go. R

O come, O come, great Lord of might, who to thy tribes on Sinai’s height in ancient times once gave the law in cloud and majesty and awe. R

O come, thou Root of Jesse’s tree, an ensign of they people be; before thee rulers silent fall; all peoples on they mercy call. R

O come, thou Key of David, come, and open wide our heavenly home. The captives from their prison free and conquer death’s deep misery. R

O come, thou Dayspring, some and cheer our spirits by they thy justice here; disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and earth’s dark shadows put to flight. R

O come, Desire of nations bind all peoples in one heart and mind. From dust thou brought us forth to life; deliver us from earthly strive. R


The United Methodist Hymnal, #211 (Words: Henry Sloan Coffin, 1916; Music: Thomas Helmore 1854)

The Virtual Presence of Love

First Week of Advent


1 Thessalonians 3:9-13:  How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith. Now may our God and Father himself and ourLord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.


After my first annual conference with the Great Plains, I decided to send a prayer note to each of the clergy that serves one of our 1007 congregations and to our clergy who serve in appointments beyond the local church as a way to be prayerfully and virtually present in love, when not able to be physically present.

I do this as my daily spiritual discipline setting aside some time each morning to open the Great Plains daily devotional email sent out each day by our conference communications team. TheDaily Devotional emails contain the picture, email addresses, and appointments of three to four of our clergy. It also features the lectionary scripture readings for the week, a daily devotional and prayer, and a list of prayer requests.

I spend some time reading and praying the lectionary text followed by praying for persons on and situations mentioned in the prayer request list then turn my attention to the clergy featured for the day. I spend some time looking at the faces of the clergy and reading the names of the churches where they are appointed. I try to remember if there have been times during my two years serving the conference when I have met and spoken to them. Often, I’ll open a map on my computer and locate the site of the congregations mentioned in the daily devotional and imagine what it is like ministering in their rural, urban, suburban, contexts. I see that some clergy pastor two, three, and even a four-point charge and I thank God for their lives and the sacrifices made by their families. Others pastor mid-sized churches, others pastors large churches and others pastor mega-churches. I try to imagine the faithful people who worship at the church, the life of their congregations, and all the good they do in the world for Christ by serving others and advocating for the vulnerable in their communities. Sometimes, I’ll search for the church’s website and click on the links to know more about the church, their people through pictures, and their ministries. If I have extra time, I’ll read an online newsletter or listen/view to a portion of an online sermon.

It is physically impossible to be with the 700 clergy, the 220 thousand United Methodists, or the 1007 congregations of the GreatPlains Conference simultaneously. But, like the apostle Paul who prayed for the church at Thessalonica, I can be present in my mind and heart with my grand community of faith as I remember the clergy and congregations in prayer each day. I can offer up to God prayers for blessings upon our clergy and congregations, praying that the Lord would empower them to increase and abound in love for another and all, just as I abound in love for them(1 Thessalonians 3:12-13). I can pray for their holiness of heart and life in all they do as they serve the Lord with joy. I do not claim to know how prayer works but I trust and experience that it does. I experience a spiritual connection in Christ through the Holy Spirit with all people throughout our Great Plains Conference. In prayer, I share in God’s character of outgoing love, and I can think beyond myself and grow in compassion for others even though I may be hundreds, even thousands of miles away.

This Advent we remember God’s ever-present love for us in Christ. Even though we cannot experience God’s physical presence, we can experience God’s ever-present and abiding love through the promised Holy Spirit and through the kindness, goodness, and love of others. 


Eternal and ever-present God, in your loving mercy, hear our prayers for those we lift before you. Complete their faith. Empower them to increase and abound in love for one another and all. And, strengthen their hearts in holiness and blamelessness before you. Amen.