The Witness of the Vulnerable

Presentation of the Lord
Psalm 84
Hebrews 2:14-18
Luke 2:22-40
In a 2016 interview, Peter Mommsen, the editor of Plough, posed a question to Stanley Hauerwas about the campaign for the acceptance of euthanasia and its connection to a desire for control. In response, Hauerwas said, “I say that in a hundred years, if Christians are identified as people who do not kill their children or the elderly, we will have done well. Because that’s clearly coming.” Hauerwas’ words, which have been oft-quoted in the two years since, have been on my mind in the past couple of weeks, as the annual March for Life in Washington D.C. and policy discussions in New York and Virginia have thrust the issue of abortion, always a prevalent topic, into the spotlight of social media and other contexts of debate. In the midst of a discussion that can be so inescapably polarizing, Hauerwas’ words remind us, as followers of Jesus, that so much of our witness and so much of our identity hinges on how we value—not just in word, but in deed—the most vulnerable among us. Read more

Mary’s Topsy-Turvy Vision

Fourth Sunday of Advent
Luke 1:39-55
In her hymn, Mary has a personal understanding and clear vision that God’s work in the world is a sort of topsy-turvy force that contradicts the power and privilege of human-created structures. God’s “great things” include scattering the proud, bringing down the powerful/lifting the lowly, satiating the hungry/sending the rich away empty. Read more

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