Lessons from Living Our Faith - Devotions for the Wisconsin Annual Conference
Look! I’m creating a new heaven and new earth: past events won’t be remembered; they won’t come to mind. Be glad and rejoice forever in what I’m creating, because I’m creating Jerusalem as a joy and her people as a source of gladness. (Isaiah 65:17-18)
In the midst of a never-ending challenge, it is sometimes hard for us to believe that God is doing something new. It is hard for us to remember and hold on to that as we work through the pain and the brokenness: our God loves us and cares about us so much that as we work through it, with the help of God, God will bring us to a new place, a different place.
As I was reflecting on this passage, I was reminded of a book I read a couple of years ago called Kaddish by Leon Wieseltier. Leon is Jewish. At the time of his father’s death, he was a non-practicing Jew.
There is a prayer in Judaism called The Mourner’s Kaddish. It is a beautiful prayer, which ironically never mentions the name of the deceased, but it is to be a part of the ritual of mourning the death of a loved one. It is a prayer that is meant to be said every day.
The book is kind of a rambling journal of his learning about the history of The Mourner’s Kaddish and his experiences throughout the year. It talks about his own struggles with faith. It gives witness to how his faith changes and begins to develop and how this even surprises him.
It is a story of his personal growth and change. It is a story of how his parents lived faith and dealt with their own faith and tragedies, even the tragedy of the Holocaust. At one point in the book, Leon’s sister calls him. Her son was to say prayers in the synagogue in Hebrew. Her son wanted to share his Hebrew with Uncle Leon.
So, he gets on the phone. He says prayers to Uncle Leon. Leon is touched. When his sister gets back on the phone, she says, clearly beaming with pride, “What do you think?”
Leon surprises himself by saying, “I think Hitler lost.” She says, “What?” It is not quite the response she was expecting.
He replies, “I think Hitler lost. When children are saying prayers in Hebrew, we are still alive. God still is reaching out to us. We are still reaching out to God. Hitler lost.”
God is doing a new thing. God is doing a new thing in Leon’s life as he gets reconnected to his faith. God is doing a new thing in the nephew’s life as he connects with faith. God is doing a new thing in the midst of life’s challenges and difficulties of this year and God is reaching out to us even now. Are you open to including God to help you through the unending challenges you face? Are you open to seeing God in the midst of the unending challenges?
Prayer: Loving One, from long ago you called your people into existence, through love and hope. We have sometimes listened and accepted that love. There are other times, we have walked away from your love. Forgive us, dear God. Help us to hear your call again. Teach us to say prayers that give life to us. Teach us the hope that helps to see beyond any current challenges. In the hope Jesus offers us, Amen.
May this devotion provide you with a moment of faithful reflection and care. You are involved in ministries of justice and witness, in ministries of standing up and standing with people working to create better systems and communities, in ministries of learning and searching and researching to become more aware and awakened, more technologically savvy and proficient, more virtually and personally present in your churches and communities and world. Each of us who serve as members of your Wisconsin Cabinet write these devotions in grateful prayer for you – for sustenance and buoyancy, for strength and courage, for safety and just actions, and for faith and love to be full and fulfilled in your daily lives. God’s grace and blessings, God’s challenge and healthy discomfort, God’s Spirit and energy be with you, in the hope Christ offers us all.