First Sunday After Epiphany
The trail descends from the pavement above, concrete giving way to packed mud, quartz, and shale, roots running here and there across the path. Below the trail, the ground slopes, settling into a creek that eventually flows to the Arkansas river. Throughout the late summer, and well into the fall, this slope would be pocked by the orange trumpets of chanterell mushrooms, fruiting from the unseen mycelium below the surface of the soil. On our weekly walks in the woods, my daughters would compete for the privlege of cutting them from their stems, collecting them in the cloth bags we’d brought for the purpose.
This was one of my family’s first attempts at foraging, going for the ready pickings of easily identified mushrooms that no one else seemed to be harvesting in our local urban woodland. There was something delightful about gathering food each week from the forrest floor, food that we’d done nothing to earn other than noticing its ripeness for the taking. My small exercise in gathering was a reminder both of the abundance of the world and of the reality that the best things available are not what we can buy, but what we can accept as gifts. Read more
The Baptism of the Lord
One of the blessings of pastoral ministry is the chance to be a part of some of the most memorable moments in people’s lives. To stand with a couple on their wedding day or to gather with a family as they say goodbye to a loved one, to speak words of scripture and offer up prayers during these times—these can be powerful and significant opportunities to share in the lives of those we serve.
As many pastors would likely attest, these moments are special not just because of the ceremonies themselves, but because of the way they connect to something bigger. They allow us to look beyond the moment and see how that moment fits into a larger view of God’s work.
Of all these powerful and holy moments that we as ministers and as members of a Christian community get to share, perhaps none is as significant or as important as a baptism. To stand at a font or in a baptistery with a person who is just beginning his or her first steps in the life of faith, to speak words of encouragement and exhortation, to pray as a community for the continued growth and sustained faithfulness of the candidate for baptism – this is such a heavy and joyful and emotionally charged event that words can hardly do it justice.
We come to such moments, and we walk away from them, convinced that God has been at work in some mysterious way to bring new life, and that we have been blessed to participate in the fulfillment of God’s promises, with the knowledge that what has just happened connects us to something bigger than ourselves, a story of salvation that God has been telling for generations. Read more
This is a strange story; we don’t often know what to make of it. What does it mean? What does it do? Jesus on a mountain, a shining moment, a voice from on high? This is the final story we read in this season of Epiphany, the season of revelation, manifestation. In other words, this is the season when things of God should be revealed, uncovered, be brought into the light. This story is no different. So what does it reveal? Read more
Baptism of the Lord
First Sunday after Epiphany
Before there was an ekklesia, before there was a Messiah, before there were mangers or magi or shepherds or heavenly hosts, there was talk among the common folk in and around Jerusalem—furtive whispers and improbably hopeful snippets of conversation among a people long since accustomed to injustice and subjugation at the hands of series of imperial oppressors and collaborators from among their own leaders. The topic of conversation was not new in any absolute sense. Its roots were a thousand years old, and exchanges like it had emerged and reemerged over the years whenever things became grim and the people wondered whether the God of their ancestors had abandoned them altogether.
The conversation invariably revolved around hope, and the hope voiced was for deliverance, a liberation such as their ancestors had experienced under the leadership of Moses in the Exodus from Egypt. This time the liberation was expected to come through the leadership of a “new” Moses, a descendant of King David, under whose rule the people would be freed, their oppressors vanquished, and shalom — peace and prosperity — established, not simply among the people Israel, but throughout Creation; not simply for now, but for all time.
In the second century before the Common Era, when the Seleucids sought to destroy Judaism by completely assimilating it into Hellenistic culture, the authors of the book of Daniel and some of the apocryphal texts gave this hope a name. They called it the reign (or kingdom) of God, and they looked for its advent through God’s anointed one, the Messiah. Read more