Duke Chapel

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Third Sunday After Epiphany
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Psalm 62
Mark 1:14-20

By Grace Hackney

My husband and I do not normally worship at Duke Chapel, but after the events of the previous week, we felt compelled to go last Sunday. We needed a “word” following the cancellation of the Muslim call to worship scheduled for the previous Friday from the top of the Chapel’s tower. It had been a challenging week, with this news following on the heels of the Charlie Hebdo massacre and resultant reactions.

With security guards sprinkled throughout the Chapel, Dean Luke Powery began worship by reading a pastoral letter regarding the recent week’s drama to the congregation. He promised that “the Chapel would seek opportunities for constructive dialogue about these complex and important subjects as we all strive for deeper understanding and greater faithfulness to God.”

It was the second week after The Epiphany, the day preceding Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Powery artfully wove together God’s call to young Samuel with King’s call to pour out his heart to God”– both of which would result in prophetic action. As Lowery reminded us, “prayerful listening leads to prophetic proclaiming.” Read more

Black

In the Dark

Second Sunday after Epiphany
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Samuel 3:1-10
Psalm 139

It seems funny in the weeks following the dazzling brightness of Epiphany to reflect on/in darkness, but that’s where I’m headed. In part because it’s heavy in the text, but also because I’m hypersensitive to it. Something of a spiritual/emotional “darkness” has been hanging out with me as of late.*

Were it possible, I’d rather slam the door in the face of darkness than spend time with/in it when it knocks. I don’t think I’m alone in that. We as individuals and communities typically want to bring light (flash, night, or flood) and all it represents – understanding, goodness, clarity, often God – into both physical and metaphorical darkness.

Depending on circumstances, the absence of light can be uncomfortable or disorienting at best, and at worst isolating, despair-filled, panic-inducing and terrifying. As Barbara Brown-Taylor writes in Learning to Walk in the Dark, “Darkness packs a different punch for different people” (13). Read more

Eichenberg

Assumed and Healed

Baptism of the Lord

Genesis 1:1-5 OR Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7
Acts 19:1-7 OR Acts 10:34-38
Mark 1:4-11

Mark’s characteristically spare account of Jesus’ baptism tells us little about the encounter between Jesus and John. We don’t learn if Jesus joined the riverside queue waiting to be dunked or suddenly presents himself to a wading John, but we get some sense that Jesus’ arrival is both anticipated and in need of explanation. Why does he undergo baptism of repentance?

Have we’ve heard the story too often to grasp its strangeness? Jesus, like us in all things but sin (see Hebrews 2:17 and 4:15), joins the sinners’ ritual of publicly displaying need of forgiveness. Read more

the-adoration-of-the-magi-1510-1

Nativity Politics

The Epiphany of the Lord
Isaiah 60:1-6
Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14 
Ephesians 3:1-12
Matthew 2:1-12
Lectionary for Mass

Welcome home, my child.
Your home is a checkpoint now.
Your home is a border town.
Welcome to the brawl.

“Song of the Magi,” Anaïs Mitchell

They are as familiar as any in the cast of characters that make up the mash-up we know as the Christmas Story.

The “wise men from the East” in Matthew’s gospel join the shepherds and angels found only in Luke to populate children’s Christmas pageants everywhere. With tinfoil crowns on their heads and festive tablecloths draped over their tiny shoulders, solemn preschoolers reverently place wrapping-paper-clad boxes at the feet of makeshift mangers. Parents and grandparents sigh and chuckle. Video and still shots are posted to Facebook before “Silent Night” has been sung and happy applause has been rendered.

Christians high-church and low have ritualized these stories (even as they have conflated them) in this very recognizable and much-beloved form. And why not teach children (and others) in such ways—through embodiment, performance, spectacle?

But for those who may be weary of the inevitable kitsch of this rite of passage, and perhaps especially for those who wonder if the whole nativity narrative isn’t just another fairy tale, it’s worth noting how the story of the wise men in Matthew (and also of the shepherds and angels in Luke) is rooted not in cuddly cuteness but in the politics of domination and costly resistance to it. Read more

Godot in Sarajevo

Looking for the Redemption of Jerusalem

First Sunday after Christmas

Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Psalm 148
Galatians 4:4-7
Luke 2:22-40

Over against the spectacle that Christmas in America has long since become – the kitschy sentimentality of front lawns unselfconsciously strewn with inflatable reindeer and snowmen alongside crèches populated by conspicuously Caucasian renditions of the Holy Family; the collective credit card induced hangover that invariably follows our annual orgy of consumerism; and our habitual rush always to look ahead to whatever’s next (there’s New Year’s Eve revelry to be planned, after all) – this week’s texts invite us to linger for a moment, and maybe take seriously the character and magnitude of what God has done and (believe it or not) continues to do through the Word made flesh. Read more