Perhaps Christ gave us the church because it is too hard to follow him alone. Sometimes pride prevents us from reaching out to others for help. We may be ashamed of our vulnerability. We may tell ourselves no one else can understand or help. Yet the community of faith supports and nourishes individual wisdom. “Encourage one another and build up each other,” writes Paul. The dark is seductive, offering many temptations that encourage us to rely on ourselves, to nurse grudges, to feel sorry for ourselves, to find fault, and to rationalize behavior and thoughts that lead us away from the light of Christ.
Reach out to the wise spiritual leaders in your life. Make a phone call. Send an email. Ask for prayer. Hang out with people who live in the light.
Sometimes when our faith is in a growth crisis, we have to allow the faith of others to carry us for a while. We may go to church, pray, and read the Bible, but we feel like we’re just going through the motions. We may feel that we are losing our faith, but we hang on because others have faith in God and faith in us to persevere.
The church in all its variety, scattered throughout time and space, is there in part to help us persevere. We need not walk this journey alone.
God of light, I cannot find you in my darkness. I sink into despair instead of standing in faith. I am afraid to hope and too wounded to love. Send your angels and saints to strengthen and build me up. Encourage me with the witness of others who believe when I cannot believe. I claim refuge in your church, the living body of Christ. Amen.
Like us, the Israelites struggle to be consistently faithful to God. God therefore allows a foreign king to rule them until the people come to their senses and cry out for help. The prophet Deborah gives instructions for the battle that will begin the deliverance of the people. The readings from Psalms and Zechariah demonstrate that this pattern of unfaithfulness and restoration has occurred frequently in the history of God’s people. In Thessalonians, Paul echoes what Jesus says in last week’s Gospel reading: We must always be prepared for the return of Christ because we do not know when it will occur. God gives us resources to use for the kingdom, and in Matthew Jesus indicates that God will ask for an account of how well we have used them.
Read Judges 4:1-7. Who has been a judge—someone who helps you discern—in your life? How can you help others discern the way?
Read Psalm 123. How do you focus on God through conflict and struggle?
Read 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11. When have you encouraged someone in a time of darkness? When have you been the one in need of encouragement?
Read Matthew 25:14-30. What would change if you considered your dreams and desires as from God? What first step can you take to enact your desires?
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