I think we all know this, we simply need reminding of it from time to time.
“The last scene in the Bible isn’t about “saved souls” going up to heaven. It is about the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven to earth as the centerpiece of the “new heaven and new earth” promised by the prophets and reaffirmed by Jesus himself and his first followers.” — N. T. Wright 
I’m sharing this reminder now because it fits with my sermon for this Sunday.
 N. T. Wright, On Earth as in Heaven: Daily Wisdom for Twenty-First-Century Christians, ed. Oliver Wright (San Francisco, CA: HarperOne, 2022), ix.
Words of wisdom from Rachel Held Evan’s final book, Wholehearted Faith:
” ‘Thick skin, tender heart.’
You never want to toughen up so much that you lose your tender heart, the part of you that experiences and processes pain and compassion and love. . . . Sometimes you have to remind yourself that it is okay, and not just okay but normal and right and good, to feel hurt when someone calls you names or questions your faith.
I’m just as uncomfortable with uncertainty and emotional exposure as the next person, but I also know that just about every sociological study on the subject shows that meaningful connection requires risk and vulnerability, and you can’t argue with that data.”
“Thick skin, tender heart.” I’m taking that advice to heart in hopes of becoming more Christlike and fully human.
 Rachel Held Evans and Jeff Chu, Wholehearted Faith (New York: HarperCollins, 2021), chap. 5, Kindle.
Today’s voice is an excellent summary of why the ends never justify the means.
We should always remember that the ends never justify the means; rather, the means are the ends in the process of becoming. — Brian Zahnd 
 Brian Hand, Postcards from Babylon: the Church in American Exile (Spello Press, 2019).
In today’s devotion from Frederick Buchner, he makes an important distinction:
“Believing in God is an intellectual position. It need have no more effect on your life than believing in Freud’s method of interpreting dreams or the theory that Sir Francis Bacon wrote Romeo and Juliet.
Believing God is something else again. It is less a position than a journey, less a realization than a relationship. It doesn’t leave you cold like believing the world is round. It stirs your blood like believing the world is a miracle. It affects who you are and what you do with your life like believing your house is on fire or somebody loves you.” 
The whole essay thing is well worth the read. Let me know if you’re interested and I’ll forward the entire email to you. Or, if you have his book, Beyond Words, you can read it there. Either way, believe God.
 Frederick Buechner, “Believing,” in Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABC’s of Faith (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2004).
I plan to preach on 1 Corinthians 13 this Sunday. Love is not easy, love is hard. But love is worthwhile. Indeed love is really the only viable option because, as King knew, “hate is too great a burden to bear.” The more complete quote can be found below. (The emphasis is mine.)
“I have also decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems. And I’m going to talk about it everywhere I go. I know it isn’t popular to talk about it in some circles today. And I’m not talking about emotional bosh when I talk about love; I’m talking about a strong, demanding love. For I have seen too much hate. I’ve seen too much hate on the faces of sheriffs in the South. I’ve seen hate on the faces of too many Klansmen and too many White Citizens’ Councilors in the South to want to hate, myself, because every time I see it, I know that it does something to their faces and their personalities, and I say to myself that hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love. If you are seeking the highest good, I think you can find it through love. And the beautiful thing is that we aren’t moving wrong when we do it, because John was right, God is love. He who hates does not know God, but he who loves has the key that unlocks the door to the meaning of ultimate reality.” — Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. 
I urge us all to “stick with love,” it’s hard, difficult work, but “hate is too great a burden to bear.”
 Martin Luther King, Jr., “Where Do We Go From Here?,” in The Radical King (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2016), 175-176.
“Understanding science doesn’t make God smaller. It allows us to see his creative activity in more detail.” — attributed to Russell Cowburn
I saw this quote on facebook, I haven’t been able to track it down officially, but I did find that Russell Cowburn is Professor of Physics at the Cavendish Laboratory, the University of Cambridge. 
Whether or not he said it—it is profoundly true.
 Sources: http://www.phy.cam.ac.uk/directory/cowburnr and
In honor of Desmond Tutu, who died today, here’s one of his many gems.
“You do not do the things you do because others will necessarily join you in doing them, nor because they will ultimately prove successful. You do the things you do because the things you are doing are right.” — Desmond Tutu 
 Desmond Tutu, in a letter to Tim Wise cited in Tim Wise, Dispatches from the Race War (San Francisco, City Lights Bookstore, 2020), Kindle, 335.
A bit of poetry for the first day of Christmas:
“He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.”
—Madeleine L’Engle, First Coming 
 Madeleine L’Engle, “First Coming,” in The Ordering of Love: The New and Collected Poems of Madeleine L’Engle (Colorado Springs, CO: Shaw Books, 2005), 242.
The following is from a series of daily devotions from the writings of Frederick Buechner.
“LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR as yourself is part of the great commandment. The other way to say it is, ‘Love yourself as your neighbor.’ Love yourself not in some egocentric, self-serving sense but love yourself the way you would love your friend in the sense of taking care of yourself, nourishing yourself, trying to understand, comfort, strengthen yourself. Ministers in particular, people in the caring professions in general, are famous for neglecting themselves with the result that they are apt to become in their own way as helpless and crippled as the people they are trying to care for and thus no longer selves who can be of much use to anybody. If your daughter is struggling for life in a raging torrent, you do not save her by jumping into the torrent with her, which leads only to your both drowning together. Instead you keep your feet on the dry bank—you maintain as best you can your own inner peace, the best and strongest of who you are—and from that solid ground reach out a rescuing hand. “Mind your own business” means butt out of other people’s lives because in the long run they must live their lives for themselves, but it also means pay mind to your own life, your own health and wholeness, both for your own sake and ultimately for the sake of those you love too. Take care of yourself so you can take care of them. A bleeding heart is of no help to anybody if it bleeds to death.” — Frederick Buechner 
 Frederick Buechner, “Take Care of Yourself,” Frederick Buechner, accessed December 9, 2021, https://bit.ly/3202UPd.
I’ve posted this before, but it’s still true and this time I have the citation.
“If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we’ve got to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition, and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.” — Stephen Colbert 
 Comedy Central: The Colbert Report, 2010. https://on.cc.com/3m9VYFy.
I came across the following words of G. K. Chesterton quoted in a tweet: “The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man.” I did a little digging and found the context and the quote gets even better. It comes in the context of an introduction to the book of Job found in the Old Testament.
“The other great fact which, taken together with this one, makes the whole work [the book of Job] religious instead of merely philosophical, is that other great surprise which makes Job suddenly satisfied with the mere presentation of something impenetrable. Verbally speaking the enigmas of Jehovah [God] seem darker and more desolate than the enigmas of Job; yet Job was comfortless before the speech of Jehovah and is comforted after it. He has been told nothing, but he feels the terrible [awe-inspiring] and tingling atmosphere of something which is too good to be told. The refusal of God to explain His design is itself a burning hint of His design. The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man. ”
 G. K. Chesterton, Introduction to the Book of Job (Titus Books), Kindle Edition.
A keen insight on the nature of joy from Henri J. M. Nouwen:
“Joy does not come from positive predictions about the state of the world. It does not depend on the ups and downs of the circumstances of our lives. Joy is based on the spiritual knowledge that, while the world in which we live is shrouded in darkness, God has overcome the world. Jesus says it loudly and clearly: ‘In the world you will have troubles, but rejoice, I have overcome the world.’ ” 
We can rejoice even during the tough times because we know that in the end, “God’s light is more real than all the darkness, that God’s truth is more powerful than all human lies, that God’s love is stronger than death.”  I pray that you may find joy.
  Henri J. M. Nouwen, Hear and Now: Living in the Spirit (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company), 39-40.