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Showing posts from 2015

Slaughter of the Innocents

The appointed gospel reading for 12/28: Matthew 2:13-18 13 Now after  [ the wise men ]  had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”  14 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt,  15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”    16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.  17 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:   18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,   wailing and loud lamentation,  Rachel weeping for her children;   she refused to be console

Ezra in Advent

The Narrative Lectionary reading for this week is:  Ezra 1:1-4; 3:1-4, 10-13 These thoughts were written for the 10W podcast for the week of 12/13. Please find this podcast here .            In this space, those of us who record this podcast usually offer a very short homily- some theological thoughts. I beg your indulgence to let me offer some personal thoughts this time. The book of Ezra is very difficult for me to read in one short bit, as in today’s reading.             It is a deeply emotional and theological book. The beginning of the book details the return from the exile of the people of Judah. This return, however, is one of deeply mixed emotions. There are people who were left behind in Jerusalem who do not know those who are returning. There are Jews who remained in Babylon, not remembering or having a relationship with Judah- the land or the people. There are non-Jews, Gentiles, who now also reside in Jerusalem or who have taken ownership and care of t

Isaiah 11, For Our Time

Cross-posted at RevGalBlogPals as a Friday Prayer. The truncated tree of Leah, Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth shall sprout, New growth shall come from their roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest on the One who comes,     the spirit of discernment and patience,     the spirit of thoughtfulness and strength,     the spirit of deep awareness of the power of the Lord. The One will find joy in the awe-inspiring work of the Lord. The Messiah shall not judge by what eyes see,     or decide by what ears hear; but the poor will be seen through honest lenses,     and decisions for equity will be made for the humble of heart and spirit; The words of the Savior will cut through the bullshit of worldly powers,     Those who oppose his goodness will be slain by grace. The torso of the One who is to come will be garbed in justice,     With decency and commitment as a lower garment. The Black Lives Matter activists shall be welcomed by the police unions,     t

A Note from Auntie Screwtape

Cross-posted at (and originally written for) . My darling nephew, Your uncle is terribly busy these days, but your auntie thought she would take a moment to write to her favorite nephew. I hope that you’re doing well and that you’re keeping warm. A chill will give you a devil of a cold. (Haha, I hope you’ll forgive the little pun.) There’s so much happening amongst the humans these days that it’s almost a demon’s playground. I am certain that your dear Uncle Screwtape has given you much guidance about how to proceed with your important work of opposition. Your uncle advises that the One who is against us wants the humans (our patients) to be aware of what they can do and the heights of their capabilities. Our work, darling Wormwood, remains to keep at the forefront of their mind ideas of what can happen to them and fear of those things. This season is absolutely delicious fodder for that. With every reminder of that wretched story of the Boy and h

Chrismon Star

Prepare the royal highway... with glitter? 

Knowing More Fully...

Even as we are more fully known. Sister Joan Chittister says, " We don't change as we get older - we just get to be more of what we've always been." ( The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully) This is the definition of sanctification for me. We are children of God,  simultaneously saint and sinner, but we are not yet what we have been made to be in fullness.  The on-going work of the Spirit within pulls, pushes, and propels us to being more fully the child (children) of God for the time and place and hope and future for which we were created.  When there is great turmoil and fear in the world, like now, I can easily feel detached from many things. Yet, because I believe God is still working - even and especially in me- I believe that nothing is settled. History is within God, thus no other forces will even be footnoted in the final telling.  Every glimpse of pain or horror in the world is also a chance to perceive one's own sanctification, to respond

Jephthah's Daughter and Fear

I've probably read Judges more than most "normal" people. I've read it a lot for someone who hasn't written a dissertation or a commentary on it. I can't escape it. There is something very truth-telling about human history in a book that perpetually shows how things go astray when they "do what is right in their own eyes", believing they have no holding center. They consistently forget God's deliverance and they fail to recognize God as their king. In the midst of the present turmoil, pain over violence at the hands of violent, desperate people in Paris, in Beirut, in Syria, and elsewhere ... the pain is becoming fear and the fear is becoming irrationality. Our best selves are not speaking. We are not acknowledging facts (there are terror cells of the present perpetrators already within our borders plus others), nor are we acknowledging the role fear of the "other" has played in United States history (much less human history). For m

Lord's Prayer (For Kids)

God, our father in heaven, Your name is special. The whole world wants your good works. Let them happen here, just like they do in heaven. Give us today exactly what we need- not too much and not too little. Forgive us where we've messed up and Help us forgive the people who've hurt us- our bodies or our feelings. Remind us that you are always with us especially when we are afraid. The entire universe, all the power, and the most glory go to you, because you are the only God. Amen

Dry Bones (Haiku)

Out of the depths we Cry out for the Lord whose day Is near and yet far.

Future Perfect Tense

While Japan is still shaking and ears are still rattling in Beirut and no one is sure what happened in Paris, except that there is a lot of blood and grief... I feel still as I wait to understand how to pray. It is almost as though praying for peace has become a kind of false prophecy, for I have seen how the forces that oppose God and God's will in the world go to all kinds of lengths to avoid peace. I sought out several translations of Psalm 27, particularly verses 13 and 14. The New Revised Standard Version says: I believe that I shall see the goodness of the  Lord      in the land of the living. 14  Wait for the  Lord ;      be strong, and let your heart take courage;      wait for the  Lord ! All of it is a future hope as well as guidance toward the future.  The New American Standard Bible reads:  I would have despaired  unless I had believed that I would see the  goodness of the  Lord In the  land of the living. 14  Wait for the  Lord ; Be  strong and let your h

Lucky in Love

I love what I do. Sure it would be nice to have more money (I don't generally say no to a raise now and then), but I feel very privileged and lucky to do the work I do. This week I have- - played pub trivia with members of the congregation I serve, - debated the root of the Hebrew word miqreh  on Facebook and tried to understanding the place of luck in the story of Ruth - visited a woman post-hip replacement - met with a variety of different groups - presided over a wedding that left no eyes dry - sat as a quiet witness to a broken heart - prayed in a bunch of different place for different things - power-napped on the couch in the church - had a good book discussion (and a Good Book discussion) And the week is not done. I am tired. I'll be taking a little comp time tomorrow to make up for two long days, but on the whole- I feel lucky and grateful to be paid to witness and participate in God's amazing work in the world.

The Sun Also Rises

About a month ago I went on a silent retreat to Christ in the Wilderness in western Illinois. I had a little hermitage to myself and I spent five days walking, praying, reading, thinking, and listening. One evening I hiked up hill (both ways) to the big, free-standing porch swing on a hill. This swing faced due west. I positioned myself in the swing to watch the blazing orange sunset over the span of corn fields and hickory trees. I heard coyotes yip and yowl. I watched flocks birds swoop and then come to rest, facing the disappearing sun like me. I saw the bats come out and dive for their food. As everything settled into evening humming, I decided to go back toward my hermitage. I climbed out of the swing and walked the path, back around to the east side of the hill. By the time I was ready to descend the hill toward the little chapel, I was facing due east. I could no longer see the sunset because the peak of the hill was between me and the view. My new view was the rising deep

Not Exactly Rarin' To Go

Prompt:  What is the hardest part of a big project: getting the energy to begin, finding the time to work on it, or feeling down that it's over? I can never get started.  It's not because I like putting things off. It is actually because of my fear of failing. As long as I haven't started, the project is not a failure.  I started to write "perfect", but I don't actually expect perfection of myself. That's not attainable. I do, however, have a standard for myself that probably looks like perfection to some people. I tend to operate with the personal expectation of a high level of  competency, creativity, and clarity. I feel it very deeply when I fail on one of those.  Thus, it is often easier not to start something because I can't flop on what I don't leap for.  What a horrible sentence .  It is the time of year when all my spare thoughts are about my Christmas Eve sermon. What can I say to communicate the power, mystery, and deep love

Psalm 23, Revisited (ReBlog)

This is an edited repost from here . The Lord is my mechanic, I’m satisfied by his work.       She keeps me tuned and running smoothly. He leads me to open roads,      She grants me peace in congestion.  God’s mercy and grace toward me reflect well on her reputation.  Even when I need serious maintenance,      I know the cost has been covered; for you are with me;             your torque wrench and your lift platform— they comfort me. You bang out my dents and mend my scratches, In front of those who treat me with disdain. You keep my fluids filled,          My belts are tightened. Certainly safety and stability will pursue me on all of my expeditions,  And I shall ride in the chariot of the Lord forever.

Worship Assistant: Google

An elderly woman and her son have attended church where I serve for a few weeks. They always leave very quickly, such that I've never really be able to meet them. She comes up for communion with the help of someone in the congregation, but he stays behind in the pew. She receives the bread and doesn't eat it. A couple weeks ago, the congregation member who had helped come up waved me over and asked to give her a blessing. The older woman said her name, which I thought was French. Conjugating quickly in my head, I said, "Dieu vous donne la paix." She smiled gently at me and I felt successful. This week, at the beginning of the service, they were back. I looked at the younger man and asked "En francais?" He said, "No, she speaks German." That explained two weeks of blank looks! "Guten Morgen!" I quickly offered. The congregation chuckled. During the passing of the peace, I went back to him and asked about communion. Knowing I ha

Hark Anticipation

My favorite Christmas carol is “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.” Pastor’s prerogative allows me to put this song at the end of the Christmas service. It is rousing and ends on a strong note. Most important to me, the words of this song give me great comfort and encouragement. I especially love the second half of the third verse, “Mild he lays his glory by, born that we no more may die/ born to raise each child of earth, born to give us second birth.” For me, these two phrases sum up the Incarnation. Jesus doesn’t come as a fire-breathing, chariot-driving, fear-mongering salesman of salvation. Instead, he is mild - a healthy infant, wrapped tightly, representing God’s willingness to break into time and space and flesh and breath and blood and water. Jesus comes for each child of earth. Not only for those who will perceive him as the Messiah, but also for those who will deny him, those who will betray him, those who will doubt, and those who just are not sure. The second birth, th

Can't Decide

Prompt:  Take the first sentence from your favorite book and make it the first sentence of your post. This would require choosing a favorite book. I can't even begin to do that.  I have books that I've read so often that I know their terrain like a favorite hiking path: A Prayer for Owen Meany , A Walk in the Woods , Bet Me , Outlander , A Tree Grows in Brooklyn , Confederates in the Attic .  I have books that are so gaspingly wonderful and provoking that I've only read them once or twice, but I will do it again- when I can breathe again from the first time: God's Hotel , The Secret Chord , The Hour I First Believed , Smoke Gets in Your Eyes , Dear Leader, Religion for Atheists .  There are books that I've read repeatedly because of my occupation and their call to me: Jonah, Mark, Ruth, Judges, Revelation, Romans.  There are the books that I won't read again, but I recommend so highly: Five Days at Memorial , An Unquenchable T

Hamilton and My French Boyfriend

The other day I encouraged people to blog about a secret obsession or, at least, an unexpected one. Mine is my love affair of the heart with the Marquis de Lafayette . I read all I can about him. (Yes, I know about Sarah Vowell's new book .)  My Lafayette love led me to follow through on learning more about the serious popularity of the new musical, Hamilton . Yes, it is a musical about Alexander Hamilton .  And it is amazing. (Not only because Lafayette does French-accented rapping!) The musical touches on what it means to be an immigrant, an orphan, a spouse, a parent, a "Founding Father". The musical styles are all over the place, but amazing in their variance and scope.  There is little religious significance to this, except that people are people and motivations remain the same. There are always those who are driven, those dealing with the unimaginable, those who are afraid to take sides.  And we live our stories together with our secrets know

Daily Scenery

The post challenge I took up today involved taking a picture of something you see every day. This is not quite the view of Anchorage I see all the time, but it's a shot I snapped this morning with no extra effort.  I'm in the middle of missing some of the things and the people that would be closer if I lived a little more east of here (as in: the Lower 48). Yet there is so much here: the church I love, my son's school, friends, trails I love, the bears and the moose.  The grass might be greener elsewhere, but the mountains aren't higher or closer or home. 

The Longest Day

November 3rd, 2007 was- to date- the longest day of my life.  I've flown over the Atlantic, across the country, sat in hospitals for hours, was in labor for 30+ hours before an emergency C-section... none of that was as long as this day in that year.  It was a Saturday and we had been promised that our loved ones would be back from Iraq that night. They'd left in March. Since saying goodbye to my husband in mid-March, I'd graduated from Yale, driven across the country with my youngest brother, started my internship, and wandered around our house alone. I'd thought through every activity I picked up... would it be something I wanted to do when I was no longer living the single life.  Earlier in the week, we'd heard a maybe of Saturday afternoon. By Friday, we knew it would be Saturday evening. By Saturday afternoon, we knew it would be after midnight.  By 5:30 pm on Saturday, I'd cleaned the house to a degree it has never seen since. I baked chocol

As the Commandment Says

based on  Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17 Often something positive eventually comes from a disaster. This does not mean that the disaster was God’s way of achieving the positive. The birth of David results from Ruth’s union with Boaz (encouraged by Naomi), but the biblical events preceding that: Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s incest with his daughters, the famine and death of Naomi’s family… these are not God’s preferred method bringing grace into the world. The first widow I ever understood to be a widow was 25 years old. She was in a college class with me. Her husband died of a heart attack while playing basketball. He was 29. Suddenly, the notion of widowhood became clear to me. It was not that a woman simply outlived her husband, but that there was a blank space at the table, an empty side of the bed, a phone number that goes unanswered, conversations that become one-sided. Widows and widowers of all ages and circumstances frequently surround us. And we forget their status. We for

Litany for the Feast of All Saints

...based on Isaiah 25:6-9; Wisdom 3:1-9; Psalm 24 The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, All that surrounds it and all who dwell therein have a home in God. The Lord has taken chaos and brought forth beauty, creativity, and community. The bounds of creation extend beyond our imagination. Science and mathematics spiral out in response to God’s omnipresent expanse. Who may ascend into the Lord’s presence and who dares to seek God’s holy face? We believe in rest and peace in God’s light for all who died in the faith. We dare to claim the same comfort and mercy for those who died in fear, pain or without clarity of heart or mind. Because grace and mercy are upon God’s holy ones, and God watches over those who have been saved. Our grief is not in vain because God is faithful and has promised to destroy death- our final enemy. Our grief is also not false because we do miss those we love, who loved us, and with whom we look forward to reuniting.

Difficult Questions: Return of Christ

Malachi 3:1-7; Psalm 98; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-5:4; Matthew 24:36-44             I did not anticipate that this sermon, the one on the return of Christ, would be the hardest to write. When I was planning the series, judgment, heaven, and hell all seemed like hefty theological balls to smack into the stands. The return of Christ seemed like a wiffle ball in comparison: Don’t know when it’s coming. It will surprise us all. Be ready by keeping the faith through loving your neighbor and caring for creation. Voila, let’s eat!             Yet this topic wouldn’t let go of me. I regretted the chosen texts. (Never mind that I chose them.) Malachi pushes his hearers into a fearful anticipation of what it to come. The one they anticipate will burn off their impurities and everyone who has done any wrong will have it revealed. Those who hear this are supposed to look forward to this day with hope and dread.             I sometimes visit a Korean spa that offers a full body scrub