Advent Devotion – Day 23

Dear Summerfielders,

Today the shining star that came to my mind was a woman I saw preach when I was in seminary. One day a week we had a worship service in the chapel that was quite a big to-do and guest preachers were invited from around the world. Following worship they would come to the big preaching class every M.Div. student was required to take and share some of their experiences and wisdom.

While we saw some really interesting people including a big wig at the Vatican and one of the clergy that serves Westminster Abbey, the person who most influenced me was an African American woman from somewhere in the south. She preached from Psalm 1:

1 Blessed is the one who obeys the law of the Lord.
He doesn’t follow the advice of evil people.
He doesn’t make a habit of doing what sinners do.
He doesn’t join those who make fun of the Lord and his law.
2 Instead, he takes delight in the law of the Lord.
He thinks about his law day and night.
3 He is like a tree that is planted near a stream of water.
It always bears its fruit at the right time.
Its leaves don’t dry up.
Everything godly people do turns out well.
4 Sinful people are not like that at all.
They are like straw
that the wind blows away.
5 When the Lord judges them, their life will come to an end.
Sinners won’t have any place among those who are godly.
6 The Lord watches over the lives of those who are godly.
But the lives of sinful people will lead to their death.

While she used the whole Psalm in her sermon to talk about what strengthens and sustains clergy, she focused on verse 3, and used the chorus “palm tree preachers” throughout her sermon. Later, during the discussion in class she talked about being a new young pastor serving her first church which did not have indoor plumbing, and so when she was pregnant she would have to go out to the outhouse to go to the bathroom.

She painted a very real picture of what it takes to serve God’s people through the church. She was open about her time in poor churches and working with little financial resources. She talked about God strengthening us when we most need it. She talked about faith and endurance and strength. She radiated courage and spunk.

God calls all kinds of people to ministry. God has called each one of us to something. With today being the day before Christmas Eve I think it is important for us to remember that Psalm 1 is from the Old Testament, written by a people who had no understanding of salvation through Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. For those people, you were either godly or sinful. There was no in-between. For us, Christmas people, we see that God is continually working on each of us. Christ makes us holier as we continue to journey in faith. You feel sinful? God has made a way for you to repent (change direction) and start anew. We can all be palm tree people, planted near the stream of water that is God’s holy refreshment through the Holy Spirit. That stream of water is available to us through prayer and relationship with God. We can be strengthened to overcome any obstacle and to complete any task that God sets before us.

Have a blessed day, palm tree people. God’s water is making you strong!

Peace,

Pastor Jennifer