Saturday, January 16, 2021
Thursday, December 24, 2020
Expect the Unexpected
Back to the shepherds, then. Shepherds were a despised lot in Jesus' time. You can lump them in with tax collectors, prostitutes, and Samaritans. Of course, as we have seen throughout God's interaction with humanity, this makes them prime candidates for a special grace. So, it was to them the invitation was extended. The much-discussed "wise men" or magi, come later (probably didn't arrive until a year or so after the birth).
So, as the story goes, as with all angelic visitations, it begins with fear. It takes a lot to scare a shepherd who defends his flock from any number of hazards; they are a grizzly lot.
But, as the gospel records, "...they were struck with great fear". The appeal of the angel not to fear is based upon the message of a savior that will "be for all the people." This is followed by a "multitude of the heavenly host" singing "Glory to God in the highest." Quite a night for the shepherds, and some essential truths about the nature of God and salvation for us tonight.
Like God's appointing David as king (the least likely candidate), God's favor rests on Mary, Joseph, outsiders like the Magi and shepherds. Notice the absence of anyone really important like Temple priests, scribes, Pharisees, important legates, or even the chief priest. God's dealing once again with the complete outsiders, widely believed to be outside of salvation history. How ironic, then, that these were the people most intimately associated with God's arrival as the Christ.
If Advent has sharpened our senses for seeking justice and finding a place with the poor to be in the right place; this visitation of the shepherds reminds us that we are now in the right place at the right time---with the poor, alone, late in the night. Dismal.
But it is with the outcast, far from the comfort of daylight, deep in the night, that God's greeting arrives proclaiming joy and salvation. Like so much of what God has done in his relationship with humanity: "Who woulda thought?"
In your deepest moment of darkness and doubt, when your prayers are bouncing back off of the ceiling, ridiculing your attempt to reconnect with God after seemingly failing every time, I want to remind you that those prayers that you think mock your devotion made it through. They were in God's heart before they ever left your lips. Like the shepherds, the most unlikely folks in the most unlikely place, God finds us. Search no further than your need, your loneliness, your feelings of being left out. For the still small voice of God speaks to you here, now, inviting you to come home and find the sign of God being with you in the most humble of circumstances. Join with Christians worldwide to not give up following the light until it rests over the manger where Christ is to be found---in the most unlikely place, at the most unlikely time.
Sunday, July 12, 2020
A Little Seed Goes a Long Way
Saturday, July 11, 2020
The Weeds in the Wheat: Stay Out of the Garden!
This parable is part of a series of parables Jesus continues to use, which develops Matthew’s theme of fulfillment (“I will open my mouth to speak in parables; I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation of the world”--Psalm 78). Indeed this parable is part of a series of parables about the acceptance and rejection of Jesus. This theme of acceptance tinged with rejection is especially relevant for Matthew’s community, who, at the end of the first century is experiencing rejection within the Jewish community.
Today’s parable suggests the “weeds” appearing among the “wheat” represent those within the Christian community who are subverting Christ’s kingdom, “the field.” On another level, the field is the landscape of the human heart where the Christian must pursue the spiritual life while struggling against the evil from within.
In response to the “weeds among the wheat,” Jesus counsels patience and tolerance. It is the Son of Man who will oversee the final judgment and separation of the weeds from the wheat. We are asked to refrain from weeding the fields lest we destroy the good with the bad. Christians on a weeding tear have historically done a great deal of damage. Think of the Inquisition and the Crusades as a couple of notable examples. In considering the substantial damage done to the kingdom by zealous gardeners, best we leave the wedding to the pros (ref. The Trinity). But what can we do with our itch to weed?
Perhaps our zealous weeding should first be practiced within our hearts, where the Holy Spirit and mature spiritual direction can bring about a more excellent purification. Put away your weed killers and trowels; see what the weeds look like first that lie sprouting within your heart, and by the time you have finished that job, God’s judgment will surely have been visited upon the world.
Sunday, June 21, 2020
Who is afraid of good news?
Thursday, June 11, 2020
Become What You Receive
Saturday, May 30, 2020
The first action at Pentecost had to do with the paradox of a single group of men from a particular region speaking so that others who spoke many other languages heard them in their own language. Perhaps the message was one of universal salvation. Scripture simply says the Spirit ". . . enabled them to proclaim. . . . the mighty acts of God." What could be mightier than the gathering of all nations to the loving call of God?
whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. (1Cor.12:12-13)
Love is the language of the Holy Spirit and the sure sign of God’s dwelling and the source of our comfort, instruction, healing light, and salvation