Risky Waters

Baptism of the Lord

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

Since leaving the pulpit three years ago to be a full time homemaker, our family has had more opportunity to worship with diverse strands of the Christian church and witness the baptisms of family, friends and strangers. Immersion, sprinkling, hot tubs, porcelain shells, flowing gowns, bathing suits, candles, vows, handshakes, testimonies, processions, and creeds. There is no standard form in which baptism is celebrated, and just below the surface a great deal of history about how we have fought and killed one another over the rite.

When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. (NIV)

It strikes me that Jesus isn’t alone. There are others there being baptized, and there is someone there to baptize Jesus. If anyone was qualified to baptize themselves and leave the whole messy religious system behind, it was Jesus. But that’s not what happened. Jesus isn’t a religious lone ranger. Read more

Dead in the Water

First Sunday of Lent

Genesis 9:8-17
1 Peter 3:18-22
Mark 1:9-15

Lent is wasted on the orderly, the continent, the well-behaved. Forego some trivial luxury if it makes you feel better, but do it on your own time, please.

Lent is for those whose lives are a mess: an invitation, once again, to acknowledge the fragile illusions in which we place so much trust, to name the destructive power of our deep habits. The traditional practices of Lent – prayer, fasting, and almsgiving – were never meant to make good people better, much less make them more appealing to God.

Lenten practices are nothing less than little deaths, killing off the unnecessary within what we like to call “ourselves,” chiseling away chunks of rough marble hiding the delicate human figure inside. Not that we are the killers or sculptors. We enter the practice the way one enters the waters of baptism: called but never in control, ready at last to drown in the ocean of God’s unearned forgiveness. Read more

God Abstracted

Matthew 4:1-11

Lent begins with Jesus fresh from the waters of his baptism, being led by the Spirit into the wilderness.  At baptism, Jesus is reminded that he is called as God’s anointed, the Messiah.  But what kind of messiah is he going to be?  It is in the wilderness, where everything is stripped away, in prayer and fasting that Jesus seeks to clarify who he is and what he is going to do.

Satan, the Great Deceiver, shows up to steer Jesus away from God’s call upon him and uses three of the greatest temptations for those who want to change this world: economics/money – turning stones to bread; religion – spectacular religion which will make the crowds want to follow you anywhere; and politics – to get the power to make things turn out the way you want. Read more

And the Wind Began to Howl

Revised Common Lectionary Readings: Isaiah 5:1-7; Hebrews 11:29-12:2; Luke 12:49-56

“So let us not talk falsely now; the hour is getting late.”
— From “All Along the Watchtower,” by Bob Dylan

Christendom’s demise is a gift to the church. No longer responsible for underwriting the ruling entities of the world, nor longer required to “make nice” with the principalities, no longer dutifully excusing the violence of power politics, the church can at long last resume the serious business of being the church.

Playing church is, of course, far easier than being it. But, barring a powerfully rejuvenated alliance of accommodated Christianity and American nationalism, reasons to pretend should grow increasingly rare. The benefits of claiming default Christian identity have disappeared in many parts of the United States. Even the assumed American requirement that Presidents endorse “strong beliefs vaguely held or vague beliefs strongly held,” has nearly run its course.

The wall of the vineyard is broken; the hedge is devoured.  Read more

Zealous for the Lord

I admit to admiration for Elijah’s zeal for the LORD, though perhaps not always for his methods. His dedication to Yahweh is absolute. He is on the run for his life now because of it, feeling alone and exhausted; tired of the compromises with idols, evil and the powers that be which Israel continues to make. But Yahweh, thank God, has not given up on us yet…

In my life of service in and for the church thus far, I have come to a profound appreciation for Baptism. The renunciations and vows are deep and powerful and grace filled and not to be taken lightly. There is the much needed reminder that we are one in, and only in, Christ Jesus and not a collection of individuals. This is God on God’s terms, not my own. I have recently begun to make Baptism books for the persons baptized in our congregation. The books contain a page for those witnesses present to sign, a place for photos taken, the Apostle’s Creed, the vows undertaken (I will, with God’s help) and a quote from the Galatians text for this coming Sunday: Read more