Gospels offer the best guidance
Ji Seok Ju, pastor, Centenary United Methodist Church, 245 N. Fourth St.:
A lot has happened in 2008 throughout the world. It has been an exciting year with important events like the Olympics in Beijing and Barack Obama being elected president. It also has been a difficult year with violent riots, wars, terrorist attacks, shootings, bombings, tornadoes, storms, floods, plane and train crashes, wildfires and earthquakes, with many lives lost.
The world has faced a massive economic crisis that has shaken up everything. We’ve seen so many people dealing with losing their homes to foreclosure, businesses failing and job layoffs. In the face of all these crises, many of us are left feeling more vulnerable and helpless than ever.
The whole world seems to be in the middle of a crisis. As people of faith, I want us to think about the term “crisis” differently as we move forward to the year 2009. Webster’s dictionary defines crisis as a “cruel time” and a “time of danger” but also as “a turning point.” A crisis can be a time to fall into despair, if we look at it negatively. However, from another perspective, we can see a crisis as a turning point.
I am reminded of Jesus, who faced crises, but his biggest crisis was crucifixion on the cross. Facing such a crisis, he gave his disciples three orders: “Stay awake,” “pray,” “let’s go” (Matthew 26:36-46). The world around us is shaking. Our future is uncertain. But it’s time to learn from the words of our master Jesus who says, “Are you in difficulty, or facing a crisis? It’s time to keep awake, pray and go.” As people of faith, we need to be attentive to the future, to the present and to faith. It’s time to overcome crisis with prayer. Then together, “Let’s go.”
— Ji Seok Ju can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eyes of faith reflect God’s grace
The Rev. Alan Estby, campus pastor, Immanuel Lutheran Church and University Student Center:
The end of the year is always an opportunity to reflect back on the days that have been. When looking back on the year 2008 with our own eyes, it would seem that the main thing to learn would be “this world isn’t getting any better.” We observe financial crisis, death of loved ones, friends suffering with health problems, continued strife and war, climate change, environmental tragedy and disaster.
The eyes of faith see the grace of God and learn of his wonderful presence, protection and continuing provision. The eyes of faith learn of God’s continued providing of all daily needs even in the midst of crisis. The eyes of faith learn of God’s gift of life in his son, Jesus, who overcame death. The eyes of faith learn of God’s care for our body and our soul through God’s protection as the world crumbles around us.
Faith learns of God’s love for us as Jesus told Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17)
— The Rev. Alan Estby can be reached at email@example.com.