Students of History

Lara Schopp Articles, Congregational Care, Joe Walker, The Well

By Rev. Joe Walker, Minister of Congregational Care

I can distinctly remember that upon witnessing one particularly unusual historical event I uttered this incredibly foolish prediction, “We will never see anything like this again in our lifetime.” Oh my, the things you say when you’re 18 (or 63, for that matter)!

I should have known better. My buddies were all history and political nerds. We didn’t party or drink. We weren’t good at sports. We were just average students. Our social life was much less interesting than we would have liked. So we sat in my grandmother’s unfinished basement and watched news programs on a black and white TV. We read the newspaper and books. We went to lectures and workshops. We volunteered for this cause or candidate and then the next. We pontificated and prognosticated on world affairs.

So, I should have more aware of the endless loop in which humankind seems to be caught.

As a people we make great – sometimes heroic – strides in lifting up the dignity of all our sisters and brothers. We strive for peace and equal rights and safe living and work conditions for all. Hmmm…then we get lax. Selfishness, pride, fear, sloth, and other sins fissure our country or congregation or neighborhood. We are stampeded into tribalism. We have to relive our nightmares and relearn hard lessons.

Ancient church mystics were wise to embrace a season of prayer, reflection, and confession in preparation for celebrating the birth of the Messiah. Those students of humanity and history recognized that Jesus coming to us, and us following Jesus, were often very different. Advent calls us to a reckoning of how we are living out Jesus’ teachings, particularly as they relate to our responsibilities in larger social and civic structures, before we celebrate anew the birth of the King of Justice and Peace.

As Advent begins this year, we have a rich variety of resources to guide us into the season with intentionality and contemplation. For instance, this prayer spoke to my heart and how I am experiencing this era in our history: “God of love…break the vicious cycles, and kindle in us once again a passion for the possible.” – Walter Brueggemann, Devotions for Advent, Celebrating Abundance (available in The Well).

Families can download a beautiful activity book based on the work of Barbara Brown Taylor – An Illustrated Advent for Families: In Light and Darkness at

Each year, several of our staff and clergy write advent devotions. Follow our Facebook page to read daily advent devotions during the month of December, or read them at