Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost

Haggai 1:15b-2:9 OR Job 19:23-27a
2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17
Luke 20:27-38

Mrs. Obrien: I just want to die, to be with him.
Preacher: He’s in God’s hands now.
Mrs. Obrien: He was in God’s hands the whole time. Wasn’t he?

From Tree of Life by Terrence Malick

As the liturgical year draws to its close, the lectionary readings make an eschatological turn, looking ahead to our own end and of things as we know them. It’s a shift in tone that flows seamlessly into Advent, where the church learns once again how to live as Jews, suspended between a ruin and a hope. Signs of ruin are everywhere: a planet we’re quickly making uninhabitable, collapsing world order, a country too divided by corrosive political rhetoric to reckon with pressing fundamentals, churches reeling from self-inflicted humiliations. Amid the rubble of a world plundered and a church betrayed from within, hope can grow hollow and brittle, like dry stems in autumn. What’s to become of our planet, our country, our church, ourselves?

In the fall, the season sharing its name with humanity’s turning away from God, such thoughts may arise simply from observing the natural world’s dying back in anticipation of winter. Sometimes we require some rather more direct reminder. During the now abandoned coronation ceremony for newly elected popes, the master of ceremonies would stop the procession three times to set alight a strip of flax. As the fabric burned into smoke and nothingness, he would address the new pope in a loud voice, saying, “Sic transit Gloria mundi,” (“Thus passes the glory of the world”), reminding him of his mortality and the evanescence of earthly power. Read more

The Sought, the Found, the Welcomed Home

Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Luke 15:1-10

I suppose this is somewhat atypical, unless you too were a farm kid, but I have such distinct memories from my childhood of lost livestock and going out to find them.

Our small farm was surrounded by large fields, and my dad as a hobby farmer often used what he had on hand for fencing, or patched together parts of things he picked up at auctions. We were always tying together wood pallets with baling twine left from open bales of hay, or twisting wire or plastic zip-ties around hog panels for makeshift fencing. Most of the time these solutions worked, until they didn’t.

And so I have memories of walking fast with determination and strategy through waist-high corn in my muck boots, keeping my eyes on where the tassels were rustling as I followed pigs or sheep down the crop rows to herd them back to the barn, trying to get in front of them and turn them back toward home. Read more

Economy of Grace

The “bookends” of this week’s lectionary readings, from Exodus and Matthew, reintroduce us to the economy of grace characteristic of God’s now-but-not-yet reign of shalom. These texts also poke at our raw spots by challenging us to recognize ourselves in them, confronting some of our deepest anxieties, and exposing our bent toward greed, envy, and pride. In reading them, and allowing them to “read us,” we are reminded of the vastness of the expanse separating God’s kingdom from the kingdoms of this world; yet we are also given hope, that God remains at work, healing Creation and transforming us, its broken members. Read more

Becoming Home

Fourth Sunday in Lent

Joshua 5:9-12
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

what is the word beyond. home.
after home.
where is it. this word.
why can i not remember how to say this
thing. this feeling that is my whole body.”

–Nayyirah Waheed

“I think that love comes so seldom, so brittle, that I’m always knocked over by the offer of a little. But asking for a lot would take a lot of bravery.”

A friend and I had spent the afternoon in the sun and the breeze talking about relationships, and after, I’d had this dawning vision that perhaps she was worthy of more love than she was allowing herself to hope for. So hours later, through a bit of trembling, I told her so. And her response was one so resonant with my own experience, so human, so all of us.

Sometimes to hope to be lavishly, abundantly loved is almost too much – to hope for the much over the little, the embrace over mere proximity, belonging over mere fitting, forever over merely tomorrow. Faced with anxieties about ourselves, history that leaves shame or deep wounds in its wake, or supposed proofs of our inferior humanity and supposed reasons our imaginations have run too wild in wanting, we settle – because scarcity is more than nothing, proximity more than distance, fitting more than alienation, tomorrow more than merely today. Read more

A Multitude of Ruptures

The post for the 4th Sunday in Advent is Jim McCoy’s post from 2012.

The word “preachy” has never been a complimentary term, even less so these days. The ministers rightly highlighted in the national news who have been doing their vital and admirable work are described as “compassionate, not preachy.” Those of us who not only have to preach but believe we should preach have been faced with how in God’s name do we preach the last two Sundays of Advent 2012, and how to do so in such a way in which compassion and preaching are not pitted against each other.

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