Learning to Forage

First Sunday After Epiphany
Acts 19:1-7
Mark 4:1-11
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

Bearers of Good News

Third Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Psalm 126
John 1:6-8, 19-28

It’s an apology we’ve heard (and possibly uttered) so many times that it has become cliché: “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but….” Yet, while many hackneyed old chestnuts have at their heart some measure of truth, I think that this one, at least in the world where we currently live, rings false, insofar as it stands in stark contrast to the spirit of our time. The fact is, many people take a certain delight in being the bearers of bad news. We occupy a cultural and political climate that is positively rife with bad news, of innumerable varieties. From salacious narratives of men behaving badly to the often extravagant failures of individuals and institutions in power to a constant catalog of taboos and norms that those in power are stomping on with every passing day, there is no shortage of bad news to report. Read more

I Pledge Allegiance

Second Sunday after Epiphany
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 49:1-7
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
John 1:29-42

These days our problems in the US seem endemic and intractable: the scars of war, trillions of dollars in deficits, violence in our cities, struggling schools, families falling apart, looming environmental catastrophe. But, like clockwork, every four years, The Great One comes to us like a gift from heaven. Next week we inaugurate a new president.

We had such high hopes for our last president. He was good looking, cool, smart. He had a beautiful family. He read books. He shot threes. He spoke in complete sentences. He was black and white and African and Indonesian and American. He was Kansas and Chicago. He was Yale and Harvard and the University of Chicago. He was Christian. He was Muslim—well, it turns out he wasn’t Muslim after all.

We pinned high hopes on him. We hoped he might save the economy, restore our moral standing in the world, end wars, rebuild the ozone layer, move us past partisan politics. He was change we could believe in.

And this week another Great One steps forward. Read more

Season of Anxiety

Third Sunday of Advent

Zephaniah 3:14-20
Philippians 4:4-7
Luke 3:7-18

One of the high-water marks of 20th century culture, an event that I revisit every year, is the 1965 television special A Charlie Brown Christmas. The fact that it continues to air fifty years after its premiere lets me know that I’m not alone in this assessment. And while the conclusion, when Linus strides onto the stage to remind Charlie Brown and all those gathered in the school gym “What Christmas is really all about,” might be the most rousing part of the short film, the opening scenes also speak in a pretty powerful way to the human condition. Read more

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