Something is About to Happen

Thirty-third Week of Ordinary Time
1 Samuel 2.1-10
Mark 13.1-8

Something is about to happen. That’s the word this week. And it starts with Hannah. An ancient Israelite, Hannah was married, but according to the scriptures, was unable to have children. The text tells us that her husband loved her, and was especially devoted to her. And yet while her future was secure, her heart was broken. She could not bear a child, and she was tormented, belittled and broken. In the story, she calls out to God, pours out her heart and desire for a child. God hears her. She becomes pregnant. And Hannah sings:

My heart exults in the LORD; my strength is exalted in my God. There is no Holy One like the LORD…there is no Rock like our God…the bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry are fat with spoil…The LORD…raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world.

Hannah takes what God is doing in her and sees the deepest of truths: if God has rescued me from barrenness, then anything is possible. Might and power will no longer count for everything. The rich will be brought low. The hungry will eat their fill. Something is about to happen. Read more

A Long, Slow Read

I Kings 8
Psalm 84
Ephesians 6:10-20
John 6:56-69

I was greatly blessed that Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead trilogy was published during my years as a pastor (Gilead in 2004; Home in 2008; Lila in 2014). Her writing has been called “luminous,” and her descriptions, especially of the Revs. John Ames and Richard Boughton, certainly shone a radiant light on my ministerial calling. Like John Ames, I would sit from time to time in an empty sanctuary and, in the quiet intensity of a Psalm 84 moment of longing and praise, I would count my pastoral blessings. “The feeling of a baby’s brow against the palm of your hand,” Pastor Ames confides at one point. “How I have loved this life.” Read more

You Want It Darker

The Third Sunday of Advent

 

 

Isaiah 35:1-10 (vv. 1-6a, 10 in Lectionary for Mass)
Psalm 146:5-10 (vv. 6-10 in LM)
James 5:7-10
Matthew 11:2-11

“They’re lining up the prisoners and the guards are taking aim.”

Leonard Cohen

A confession: I do not know how to write about these Advent texts as if the events of the last month (and the many months prior) were politics as usual in the United States of America. You know—a couple of slick, scripted candidates square off, make promises they won’t keep; one emerges the victor, half the nation sighs and shrugs, and then we all get back to the business of our busy lives. Good God, no.

In fact, I think the events of the last month and what they portend for the future put into sharp relief the piercing critique that the texts of Advent bring to bear on the politics of fear and intimidation, on authoritarian rule and its contempt for truth, on stunningly ill-prepared leaders and their fragile egos. Read more