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

Rebuke as Generous Invitation

In his book titled “The Beginning and the End of Religion,” Nicholas Lash invites us to look upon the world. “Summon up quietly,” he says, “with such clear-sighted courage as you can, all the cumulative evidence- from the depths of each one’s psyche to the centre of our politics; from the arbitrary and sporadic barbarism of our wars and cities to the well-oiled structures of rapacity and greed we call world trade- which suggests that the answer to the question is: ‘there is indeed, only power; and violence is master of us all’.”1

Perhaps violence really is what makes the world go ‘round. Surely, the events of the past week make it difficult to argue otherwise. Moreover, at first glance, today’s readings from Scripture don’t seem to be much help. Read more

Outside the Inn-siders

Second Sunday of Advent

Luke 3: 1-6

The word of God came to John out in the wilderness, so says Luke. After giving us the names and offices of the powerful in his day – Tiberius Caesar, Governor Pontius Pilate of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and Trachonitis, Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, and Annas and Caiaphas the high priests – Luke says the word of God comes to none of them. Bypassing the centers of power, the word comes to one outside. Read more