By Bob Yoder, campus pastor
This week’s theme: “Freedom Bound: The Path of Justice”
Welcome to Goshen College’s online devotions for the 2015 Advent season! Our theme this year, taken from Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada worship resources found in Leader magazine, is “Freedom Bound.” Every Monday an author will introduce the sub-theme and the following days writers will reflect on a specific scripture passage. The theme for this week, Advent 1, is “Hope: I Will Fulfill My Gracious Promise.”
Recently on our campus we planned a Service of Thanks for chapel. A month prior we held a Service of Healing and Anointing where a list of student doubts, struggles and questions were read before the time of anointing. It was a beautiful service, though had a “holy heavy” feel.
Originally when I titled the Service of Thanks chapel back in August for mid-November, I had assumed that it would have more of a “holy light” feel. But as with “original thoughts” go, one could not have imagined the various world events that would occur this Fall, including some events a handful of days prior to our Service of Thanks. As the worship planners reflected together on plans for this service, we recognized that painful and challenging realities continually exist for many. How do we bring those realities to God during a Service of Thanks?
We planned a service holding various paradoxical realities before God and us, including the following words from a student-written litany of response to Jeremiah 33: “We grieve and wonder how we can be thankful when the indigenous people of this land faced genocide to make room for settlers. We wonder where you [God] are now, in times of trauma, in the face of natural disasters and environmental crises. We wonder where you [God] are when your people kill one another, in the midst of violence enacted in the name of religion and dogma.”
But as this prayer went on, we were reminded of the “Reconciling God” who has unconditionally loved us and fills us with hope. Then, we were invited to not only offer God thanks for what God has done, but also to recall people in our lives for whom we are grateful. We wrote the names of those individuals onto a “paper leaf” and placed those onto a “paper tree.” A wonderfully colorful visual displaying gratitude and hope for all to soak in!
O Loving and Hope-Dispensing God, fulfill your gracious promises to us so that we might love more, understand better, and bear the hope we yearn to inhabit.