goodshepherd

Repent: The Kingdom Is Near

Epiphany 3:  Isaiah 9:1-4, Psalm 27:1, 4-9, I Corinthians 1:10-18, Matthew 4:12-23

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.    ~Matthew 4:17b

And so it begins.  The history of the world shifts, never to be the same again. 

For over ten years now I have had the joy of being part of the Christian Seasons calendar team based out of University Hill congregation in Vancouver, BC.  In a Wednesday meeting with me in 2000, Rev. Ed Searcy, in reflecting on his D.Min. studies on the engagement of Christian faith and North American culture, wondered why we as Christians did not yet have our “own” calendar, similar to how there was a Jewish calendar, etc.  I was immediately struck by the thought that this was an idea whose time had come. Read more

piano

Truth Dazzles Gradually

John 1: 29-42

At age 51, Noah Adams, a host on National Public Radio, abruptly decided he had to have a piano so he invested in a new Steinway upright – a financial commitment that provided extra incentive to practice.

Adams tells this delightful story of his first year of learning to play the piano in his book, Piano Lessons.  Yet learning to play was a daunting task, particularly given his already demanding schedule.  He found it difficult and frustrating; he couldn’t simply sit down and make the beautiful music he wanted.  There were scales to learn, and basic rhythms to be mastered.  Initially, he decided against going to a teacher, trying such shortcuts as a “Miracle Piano Teaching System” on the computer.  A friend’s warning proved to be prophetic: “You might be learning music with that computer, but you’re not learning how to play.” Read more

Early_Christian_Magi

Voice lessons

Psalm 29; Matthew 3:13-17

It’s no wonder that parts of the Church used to observe Christmas, Epiphany, and the Baptism of the Lord as part of one unified and extended celebration.  There’s a lot of revelation going on there.  Christ’s identity is revealed to shepherds, wise men, John the Baptist, and those gathered on the banks of the Jordan. 

The revelation continues on the Sundays after the Epiphany.  God appeals to our senses.  Whereas Ragan talked about seeing last week, this week we hear the Father’s voice tell us Read more

Giotto_di_Bondone_St+John

God Made Visible

John 1:1-18; Matthew 2:1-12

What makes God visible?  That was the question that struck me reading the lectionary passages for this week.

This is one of those rare weeks in which the Episcopal Church (my tradition) varies its readings from the standard Revised Common Lectionary, so I read both the gospel readings from John 1 and Matthew 2:1-12 (Episcopal).  Reading both was instructive because both are about God being made visible.

In John 1:18 we read, “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.”  This comes after we are told of the light coming into the world, a light that makes God visible by dwelling with us and making us children of the light with “grace upon grace.”
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massacre+innocents

Herod Rules

Matthew 2:13-23

If, as the late Raymond Brown was fond of saying, the infancy accounts in Matthew and Luke are “the gospel in miniature,” then this Sunday’s gospel may be read as Matthew’s preview of the passion and resurrection. As with the passion accounts, we go astray if we read ourselves into this story in ways that are too easy, too comforting. If we don’t find something of ourselves in the person of Herod the Great, we’re cutting ourselves far too much slack.

Historical accounts of Herod the Great suggest a ruler wily enough to switch allegiances just in time and pragmatic enough to execute his own children when politics demanded. An Idumaean rather than ethnically Jewish, he was nonetheless named “King of the Jews” by the Roman Senate while in exile.
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dream

A Small Part in a Great Story

Isaiah 7:10-26; Matthew 1:18-25

By Matthew 1:18, Matthew has already named Jesus as the Messiah several times. Indeed, Matthew’s genealogy is constructed to show that the son of Joseph and Mary is also the Messiah. Reading the birth narrative in light of the genealogy helps us remember that what we encounter in this particular birth is the continuing of the story of God’s covenantal love for his chosen people, and indeed all the world. The birth of the Messiah comes as the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham and David as well as in the wake of the sad history of the murder of Uriah and the deportation to Babylon. The genealogy reminds us that the birth of the Messiah is part of the history of God’s action with and for God’s broken people.

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barrel+bloom6

Advent Outdoors

Third Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 35:1-10; Psalm 146: 5-10 or Luke 1:47-55; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11

The haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes
. Isaiah 35:7b

Wendell Berry observes that it’s not enough appreciated how much an outdoor book the Bible is. For many, such an insight serves mainly to underwrite the idea that we can worship God best in nature’s environs: mountaintops, seashores, golf courses. But I think that Berry is on to something else, as are the appointed texts for the season of Advent generally and for the third Sunday especially. Read more

Coventina's Well

The Politics of Hope: American and Apocalyptic

Isaiah 11:1-10Romans 15:4-13Matthew 3:1-12

It wasn’t surprising on that November night two years ago when people poured out onto the streets of our San Francisco neighborhood cheering and beating pots and pans after the media called the election for Barack Obama. What was surprising was the way that Obama’s election resounded in many corners of the country far less blue than this Left Coast City. Not since the 1960s had both Virginia and North Carolina gone Democratic.

No matter one’s view of Obama then or now, the fact of his election revealed a welling up of desire for the healing of centuries-old divides in race and politics. It highlighted the longing of many Americans for someone who could transcend the politics of entrenched despair and usher in a different way of relating, a politics of hope. Read more

Advent+Wreath

The Son of Man Is Coming

First Sunday of Advent:

Isaiah 2: 1-5, Psalm 122, Romans 13: 11-14, Matthew 24: 36-44

And so we begin the waiting…again.  Paul writes, “For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near.”  We are two thousand years nearer now and still we wait, surrounded yet by too much night.  My husband likes to take the time to talk with our 7 year old son about the resurrection – that day of glory when Christ will come again and make all things new.  The other night, out of the blue, Jameson’s last words before falling asleep were, “I hope the resurrection happens soon (to which I replied, “Amen”) – while I’m alive…that would be neat.”  And I was struck with how much was caught up in that word “neat” – all the hopes and fears of all the years.  As the dark maw of cholera devours people in Haiti, as abnormal amounts of rain drowns people and crops in too many places, as corruption cripples and crumbles the foundations of nations, I am inclined to shout to Jesus, “would you hurry up and get here already!”  Read more

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The Crucified King

Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:33-43

At George Washington’s first inaugural in New York City (following an election in which he received every electoral vote), some in the audience wondered if the former colonies had simply exchanged George III for George the First. President Washington, however, had no truck with domestic monarchists. Throughout his presidency, he maintained a careful balance of pomp and the common touch, willingly leaving office after his second term.

By the 1860s, however, Washington – both war hero and president – was the only historical figure capable of unifying a violently fractured nation-state. In 1865, accordingly, Constantino Brumidi painted an immense fresco above the US Capitol Rotunda, The Apotheosis of Washington, elevating the first president beyond monarchy to the status of a god. Read more