Where Else?

 

Baptism of the Lord/First Sunday after Epiphany

Genesis 1:1-5

Psalm 29

Mark 1:4-11

 So many moments fold into this one.

Here the One before all time who sweeps over the face of the waters, dividing light from dark and making days, now stands within them.

Here the Lord of glory, holy splendor, majesty, power, and strength in the psalms stands ankle deep in the mud of the Jordan River, yielding power to the hands of the baptizer. The breath of life which spoke a world and animated living beings will now stop in the chest, held in the cheeks, as body is pressed under the current and pulled back to the surface.

He will open his mouth and take a breath, blinking into the sun.

Like the moment after the press of labor stops and slippery child has emerged, now held in hands and gathering breath to announce himself in the world, the heavens like lips will part with joy. Here come the pronouncements: “It’s a son! My son – He is beloved! I am well pleased!”

Here in the Jordan River, Jesus held in the hands of John the baptizer, the Word of God is once again placed in the hands of the prophets as it has always been since the beginning – the God who entrusts self to human tellings. Read more

Something New

Second Sunday After Christmas

Ephesians 1:3-14

John 1:1-18   

  During this season, it’s somewhat natural to be immersed in thoughts of the new. As I write this, I’m looking out the window at a new blanket of white snow covering my front yard. My kids are shuffling around the house in new pajamas, reading new books and assembling new Lego sets, the excitement of exchanging and unwrapping packages still lingering in the house. And of course, we’re just a few short days away from New Year’s Eve, the date when people around the world will gather to count down the moments when we move into a new calendar year. It’s an event that, even in normal times, brings with it heightened expectations of change, a hope that, whatever has transpired in recent days and months, there is some magic in turning the calendar over that casts a vision of better possibilities ahead. We map out the new and different ways that we plan on approaching our personal lives, our physical well-being, our workplace goals, the changes in our routines and habits that will make us new people. Read more

Loving the World

Fourth Sunday of Lent

John 3:14-21

Likely the most well known verse in the entire Bible is John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever should believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life (which is the way I memorized it in the King James version).

In the Texas Baptist life in which I grew up this was the essence of the gospel or as old Luther said a few centuries earlier, it’s the gospel in miniature. Along with the entire story of Nicodemus secretly coming to Jesus during the night and being told earlier in the conversation that he must be born again, this was our canon within the canon and it interpreted everything else. To this day in most Baptist churches in my part of the world I can stand up in the pulpit and say, “For God so loved” and the entire congregation will respond reciting the rest of the verse from memory.

Unfortunately, for most of us so formed by this understanding of the gospel, it has reinforced our Gnosticism. Read more

Body Matters

Second Sunday of Christmas
Solemnity of the Epiphany

Jeremiah 31:7-14
Psalm 147:12-20
Ephesians 1:3-14
John 1:1-18


“The Word became flesh and lived among us…”

The deepest of human hopes has taken body, form: there is skin on God. Soft tissues wrap bone, the divine bound willingly in the swaddling clothes of human substance, fibered all through with yearning and will. The creator inhabits created form. There is no room for metaphor here; flesh on God is no parable, no allegory. Make no mistake: this is body, like yours, like mine, mystery as intimate as your own face.

What difference does it make for flesh to mean flesh? How much would it matter if the scriptures said instead, “the Word became soul and lived among us?” Is an enfleshed God just a magnanimous detail for the sake of good story? Read more

A Very Messy Christmas

Fourth Sunday in Advent

Isaiah 7:10-16
Romans 1:1-7
Matthew 1:18-24

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

-Leonard Cohen

Judah is threatened, but King Ahaz, not otherwise known for piety, refuses to test God in his moment of need. God nevertheless renders a sign: Isaiah, who thinks he knows what information a calculating ruler wants to hear, announces that a girl with soon give birth.

Paul writes as a self-described slave to Christians in the imperial capital where he will eventually be executed. Yet, compelled by Christ, he greets his readers with words of grace and peace.

Joseph learns that his fiancée is pregnant with someone else’s child, and looks for a way out. Yet God speaks to him through an angel in a dream and – get this! – Joseph is persuaded to stay. Read more