An Identity Not My Own

Second Sunday after the Epiphany

 

1 Samuel 3:1-20

Psalm 139: 1-6, 13-18

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

John 1:43-51

Not having grown up with the practice of following the Lectionary readings means I am constantly intrigued by the groupings of Scripture texts that get packaged together. Sometimes I must admit that a particular combination is at first baffling, leading me to wonder what sorts of substances the team was sipping on while they made their decisions. Other times a theme seems to rise slowly to the surface the way your answer used to in the Magic 8 Ball (ask an older person what this is!). I have tried several times and failed to talk myself out of a problematic theme that seems to emerge from the murkiness for this week, but here it is: Identity. And yes, I know just how problematic that is. Read more

Where Else?

 

Baptism of the Lord/First Sunday after Epiphany

Genesis 1:1-5

Psalm 29

Mark 1:4-11

 So many moments fold into this one.

Here the One before all time who sweeps over the face of the waters, dividing light from dark and making days, now stands within them.

Here the Lord of glory, holy splendor, majesty, power, and strength in the psalms stands ankle deep in the mud of the Jordan River, yielding power to the hands of the baptizer. The breath of life which spoke a world and animated living beings will now stop in the chest, held in the cheeks, as body is pressed under the current and pulled back to the surface.

He will open his mouth and take a breath, blinking into the sun.

Like the moment after the press of labor stops and slippery child has emerged, now held in hands and gathering breath to announce himself in the world, the heavens like lips will part with joy. Here come the pronouncements: “It’s a son! My son – He is beloved! I am well pleased!”

Here in the Jordan River, Jesus held in the hands of John the baptizer, the Word of God is once again placed in the hands of the prophets as it has always been since the beginning – the God who entrusts self to human tellings. Read more

Something New

Second Sunday After Christmas

Ephesians 1:3-14

John 1:1-18   

  During this season, it’s somewhat natural to be immersed in thoughts of the new. As I write this, I’m looking out the window at a new blanket of white snow covering my front yard. My kids are shuffling around the house in new pajamas, reading new books and assembling new Lego sets, the excitement of exchanging and unwrapping packages still lingering in the house. And of course, we’re just a few short days away from New Year’s Eve, the date when people around the world will gather to count down the moments when we move into a new calendar year. It’s an event that, even in normal times, brings with it heightened expectations of change, a hope that, whatever has transpired in recent days and months, there is some magic in turning the calendar over that casts a vision of better possibilities ahead. We map out the new and different ways that we plan on approaching our personal lives, our physical well-being, our workplace goals, the changes in our routines and habits that will make us new people. Read more

Christmas Praise in a Mutilated World

First Sunday after Christmas

 

Isaiah 61:10-62:3

Psalm 148

Galatians 4:4-7

Luke 2:22-40

You’ve seen the refugees going nowhere,

You’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.

You should praise the mutilated world.

                             –Adam Zagajewski, “Try to Praise the Mutilated World”

Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts.

                             –Wendell Berry, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”

The appointed texts for this week are filled with such unqualified praise as befits Christmastide. Isaiah, whose language has been oft borrowed by the Church, rejoices at the prospect of Jerusalem’s restoration as a light to the nations; he eagerly anticipates the time when “her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch,” when God’s people “shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.” Read more

Birthing a Revolution

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Luke 1:26-38; 46b-55

There is an image of Mother Mary, created by Ben Wildflower, depicted with her fist raised and her foot on a skull. She is crushing a dead snake under her feet, and her face is stern. Her garb is simple, and a halo of stars encircles her head. The whole image is composed of black and white.

Around this image are inscribed words from the Magnificat: Fill the hungry. Lift the lowly. Cast down the mighty. Send the rich away.

This is no Madonna and child. There is no demureness or timidity to this Mary. She is not looking up to the heavens but is clearly focusing her gaze downward onto more earthly matters. The Queen of Heaven is not happy with the state of things, and in this image, she embodies her song with a deep power and conviction. Read more

Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord

Second Sunday of Advent

 

 

Isaiah 40:1-11

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

2 Peter 3:8-15a

Mark 1:1-8

The musical Godspell begins with John the Baptist’s character singing the opening song, which only has one line: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.” The song begins slowly, broadly calling an assortment of characters to the song’s source. Once they arrive, John baptizes them. After an introductory sentence, this is how the gospel of Mark begins as well. The impression from both the biblical text and the musical is clear: John the Baptist is the one who prepares the way of the Lord. The focus on this forerunner is typical for the second Sunday of Advent. However, this should not make us too casual, as though we are very familiar with John; because he points to the way of the Lord, there will always be more to see. Read more

Of Sheep and Tender Shoots

First Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 64:1-9

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Mark 13:24-37

“Therefore, keep alert—for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning…”   Mark 13:35

On a crisp afternoon in late December my family lounged in the grass at our friends’ homestead in Winterville, Georgia. The kids swung on rope swings and ran through what was left of the garden. My husband and I sat talking with Hank, whose wife Rita slipped in and out of the conversation, walking out to the shed to check on her laboring sheep. I talked and enjoyed our families’ company, but my attention had shifted, and I felt the quiet, dispassionate alertness that only ever comes over me at work. I am a midwife, and I was watching my friend as she watched her sheep’s first birth. Read more

Belonging Before Believing

Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Matthew 25:31–46

When did the disciples “believe” in Jesus? Whatever we mean by “believe,” the different gospel writers put that point at different times depending on their particular agenda. Read more