Nativity Politics

The Epiphany of the Lord
Isaiah 60:1-6
Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14 
Ephesians 3:1-12
Matthew 2:1-12
Lectionary for Mass

Welcome home, my child.
Your home is a checkpoint now.
Your home is a border town.
Welcome to the brawl.

“Song of the Magi,” Anaïs Mitchell

They are as familiar as any in the cast of characters that make up the mash-up we know as the Christmas Story.

The “wise men from the East” in Matthew’s gospel join the shepherds and angels found only in Luke to populate children’s Christmas pageants everywhere. With tinfoil crowns on their heads and festive tablecloths draped over their tiny shoulders, solemn preschoolers reverently place wrapping-paper-clad boxes at the feet of makeshift mangers. Parents and grandparents sigh and chuckle. Video and still shots are posted to Facebook before “Silent Night” has been sung and happy applause has been rendered.

Christians high-church and low have ritualized these stories (even as they have conflated them) in this very recognizable and much-beloved form. And why not teach children (and others) in such ways—through embodiment, performance, spectacle?

But for those who may be weary of the inevitable kitsch of this rite of passage, and perhaps especially for those who wonder if the whole nativity narrative isn’t just another fairy tale, it’s worth noting how the story of the wise men in Matthew (and also of the shepherds and angels in Luke) is rooted not in cuddly cuteness but in the politics of domination and costly resistance to it. Read more


Year B links

We’ve been doing bLOGOS for a while now. The 2014-15 bLOGOS posts will be our third cycle of lectionary reflections for Year B. This list is the complete collection of previous posts for Year B. Due to calendar changes and times when authors were unable to submit, there may not be two posts for each week, but we hope this set of links will be helpful. The authors for the two years, mostly by order of appearance were:  Jesse Larkins, Jake Wilson, Erin Martin, Doug Lee, Ragan Sutterfield, Kyle Childress, Debra Dean Murphy, Joel Shuman, Brian Volck, C. Christopher Smith, Janice Love, Halden Doerge, Mark Ryan, John Jay Alvaro, Danny Yencich, Jenny Williams and Heather Carlson.

A pdf file of the complete reflections can be downloaded here. 

Advent-  1: 2008, 2011  2: 2008, 2011 3: 2008, 2011 4: 2008, 2011


1st Sunday after Christmas – 2008

Holy Name of Jesus2011

Epiphany-  +1: 2012 +2: 2009, 2012 +3: 2009, 2012 +4: 2009, 2012 +5: 2009, 2012 +6: 2009, 2012

Transfiguration: 2009, 2012

Lent- Ash Wednesday: 2009, 2012 1:  2012 2: 2009, 2012 3: 2009, 2012 4: 2009, 2012 5: 2009, 2012

Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday: 2009, 2012

Easter- 2009, 2012 2:  2012 3: 2009, 2012 4: 2009, 2012 5: 2009, 2012 6: 2009, 2012  Ascension: 2009

Pentecost: 2009, 2012 Trinity: 2009, 2012

Ordinary Time 10: 2012 11: 20092012 12: 2009, 2012 13: 2009, 2012 14: 2009, 2012 15: 2012 16: 2009, 2012 17: 2009, 2012 18: 2009, 2012 19: 2009, 2012 20: 2009, 2012 21: 2009, 2012 22: 2009, 2012 23: 2009, 2012  24: 2009, 2012 25: 2009, 2012  26: 2009, 2012 27: 2009, 2012 28: 2009, 2012 29: 2009, 2012 30: 2009, 2012 31: 2012 32: 2012 33: 2009,  2012

All Saints: 2009

Reign of Christ: 2009 2012


Albie the Schnauzer

Seek and you shall…

Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Psalm 40:1-11, John 1:29-42

This week we will let Paul David Hewson (aka Bono) be our exegete. Bono, the frontman for the Dublin-based band U2, wrote two songs that intersect with today’s lectionary passages. Our texts for this reflection will be Psalm 40 and John 1:29-42, and alongside the Biblical text will be “40 (How Long)” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” from U2.
First Psalm 40. This is one of those lovely/troubling imprecatory psalms. “Imprecatory” means “to curse or pray evil upon another,” a definition which makes these passages difficult to preach.

In 1983, U2 wrote their War album. On the last night of recording, they were about to be run off by the studio manager. They needed one more song, so they quickly wrote and recorded a song based on Psalm 40. The whole thing came together in under an hour, and thus their hit “40 (How Long)” was born. A tradition developed around the song during their album tour. At the end of the set, the band would play through the song, during which one by one they would lay their instruments down and leave the stage. The crowd/congregation would then continue to sing the refrain, “how long…to sing this song?”

Read more

Epiphany Image

Darkness and Light, and My Son’s Need to Know Where the Bad People Go

Epiphany of the Lord

Isaiah 60:1-6
Ephesians 3:1-12
Matthew 2:1-12

Dallas, my current hometown, is full of huge churches with important pastors. The church where I serve is tiny by comparison, and outside of our little baptist tradition (i.e. not SBC) no one knows or really cares what we are up to week to week. Fine by us, but it is a stark contrast to the giant religious groups flanking us on all sides. And these important pastors have been given access to thousands upon thousands of itching ears each week. They are the arbiters of right and wrong, light and dark, heaven and hell. So when something like a massive school shooting happens, they are armed to the teeth with explanations and remedies.

It should have come as no surprise that the Newtown shooting would elicit such clarity from the pastors. More than one broke it all down with the convenient metaphor of darkness and light. Read more

The Transfiguration

Plastic Minds and Magic Eyes

Last Sunday After Epiphany (Year B) RCL

2 Kings 2:1-12
2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Mark 9:2-9

Not long ago my nephew was forcing me to find Waldo in page after page of busy scenes where somewhere there was a goofy guy in red and white stripes.  “Where’s Waldo”, “Magic Eye”–we love seeing games where we must pick out an image from visual confusion.  Perhaps this love comes from our history as hunters and gathers, when we had to unmask the camouflage of animals in order to gain our daily food.  Whatever it is, we love seeing what was invisible made suddenly apparent.

The ability to see beyond the obvious is a skill and we have to develop it.  I know people who have never been able to make a “magic eye” picture work for them, but most of us, after we see one “magic eye” image can see any “magic eye” image.  Once we learn how to see, we are able to see everything and anything anew.

Seeing is the common thread of The Revised Common Lectionary readings for this last Sunday of Epiphany.  Elisha must see Elijah taken up into heaven in order to have his double spirit, in 2 Corinthians Paul speaks of “the god of this world”  blinding “the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God,” and finally in the Gospel reading we have the recounting of the transfiguration where Peter, James and John see Christ glorified in an apocalyptic meeting with Moses and Elijah. Read more