And it was going so well.
Jesus had returned to his home village, to the people who knew him when he was an adorable child, and maybe a not-so-adorable adolescent. He read out a prophecy from Isaiah, not one of the harsh ones that make listeners squirm, but good news for the poor, the broken-hearted, the oppressed. He even said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”Continue Reading
In her book Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling begins with a scene in which 15-year-old Harry uses magic outside of school. He does so not to get himself out of a scrape or for his own benefit, but to protect his cousin, Dudley, from Dementors, evil creatures that suck the soul out of a person. Even though he is defending his unappreciative and unkind cousin from the Dementors, when they return home, Harry finds a note from the Ministry of Magic informing him that because he has broken the rules, he has been expelled from school.
At that, his Uncle Vernon, who despises Harry and is frightened and distrustful of the wizarding community, turns and gives him a wicked grin. “Justice,” he hisses.Continue Reading
The wedding at Cana is recorded as the first miracle of Jesus’ ministry. The Gospel of John refers to the miracles as signs, because in this Gospel, the portrait of Jesus that emerges is one in which Jesus’ every word and every action points people to the Father. Everything that Jesus does in this gospel reveals something about God and about the Kingdom of God. And the more we explore this story, the more it shows us about the Kingdom of God.Continue Reading
The Start of a Journey
Baptism marks the start of a journey, the end of one kind of life, one world, one identity, and the beginning of another. The Baptism of Our Lord, which we celebrate this day, takes us back to the very beginning, to the first Once Upon a Time, when, “In the beginning, when God was creating the heavens and the earth.”
As anyone who sews can tell you, when you take your needle and draw it back, stitching over the stitch you just made, it strengthens it. Makes it stronger. So we are strengthened in baptism by the knowledge that this act connects us back to God in creation, to the beginning of time.Continue Reading
Fear or Faith?
Of all the events that make no sense in the Christmas story, this is one that has always snagged my attention: And Herod was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Herod, the ruler over all Judea. Herod, the man who to most ordinary people in Jesus’ day would seem to have infinite power. Why in the world was Herod troubled about a birth? Even if there was a portent attached to it?Continue Reading
Fling Wide the Door
As the darkness begins to lift, as we heed the call to level the mountains and raise up the valleys, after we are scalded into our expectations by the harsh words of John the Baptizer, we come at last to the kind of Gospel message we are hoping to hear: pregnancies, miracles, a beautiful hymn of praise to God. Here in this part of Luke’s sprawling opening chapter, Mary reveals that the recent cosmic events in which she has been caught up have taught her a thing or two about how God operates.Continue Reading
What Do You Expect? Harsh words from John, part of what I like to call the hairy-scary stuff of Advent. And how do those hearing such imprecations respond? “The people,” Luke tells us, “were filled with expectations.” What are our expectations? Continue Reading
Today’s Gospel reading gives us the unlikeliest of instructions: In the desert, prepare a highway for our God. If we’re going to prepare a highway, common sense would dictate that we build the road where it is most needed: that is, where there is already a great deal of traffic. In the desert, instead, are pitiless, endless expanses of sand, where you and I can wander for days, even years, in unrelieved solitude. The desert would seem to be the last place to prepare a highway.Continue Reading
We begin our Advent journey in darkness. We are in the season of the shortest days of the year, the days when we are farthest from the sun. Darkness abounds. Yet all around us, displays and commercials create a sense of urgency, communicating that the darkness is something to be banished, the waiting something to be rushed through. What if we did not rush?Continue Reading
My kingdom is not of this world, Jesus says to Pontius Pilate when challenged. Jesus had not come to advocate regime change. It was not his plan to supplant the reigning earthly king and bring in simply a different ruler. Rather, Jesus had come to usher in an entirely different way to be in relationship. We do live in the world, and most of our lives are devoted to the things of this world. But at the same time our goals and our principles, the guidelines of our days, are in the realm of the Kingdom of God. That means that the rules and laws of this world can be improved by human efforts. We can make strides toward non-retributive justice, toward ensuring a seat at the table for every one of God’s beloved children. But we cannot fully usher in the justice, the equity, the shalom that God has promised. So we live in the tension between the realized Kingdom of God that is said to be all around us and the reality that the Kingdom of God would have fewer homeless people.Continue Reading