Just say yes!

A Sermon for Advent 4: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Canticle 3 or Canticle 15; or Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38

Gabriel has a message to deliver. The angle knows what to do because that is what angels are, message delivers. So, Gabriel follows the pattern, he tells the receiver “Do not be afraid.” calls the receiver by name, and assures them of God’s favor (Culpepper). It is exactly what the Gabriel tells Zechariah (Elizabeth’s husband and John the Baptist’s father) in the Temple several months before (Luke 1:5-25). To say that Mary is perplexed is an understatement (Epperly). She has not been yearning to have a baby like Rebekah, or Hannah. She is not ready, she’s barely old enough. She is not like Sarah 80, or Elizabeth who is not quite but almost as old. She hears that she is favored by God, but it feels so strange; where are the customary ideals that connect it all to day in and day out life (Culpepper)? If that is not enough there the folktale from Tobit about the wicked angel Asmodeus visiting Sarah, the daughter of Raguel, on her wedding nights and killing her husbands. Seven deaths have raised suspicions (Tobit 3:7-8) (Culpepper). With all this running through Mary’s mind, I wonder if Mary really hears Gabriel’s message? So, with more and better reason than Zachariah Mary answer the divine question with a good question: How can this be? You can easily imagine her asking Why will this be? (Hoezee).

Gabriel now has a different role the giver of comfort in perplexity. Steve Pankey writes:

Mary wasn’t just confused by the reality of an angel standing in her room [~] she is downright scared, anxious, confused, and totally taken aback.

We know Gabriel tells Mary not to be afraid, we know she is called by name, but we may not realize how rare this is for women in biblical days, thus we may miss how Gabriel assures her that she is valued, that she is beloved of God (Pankey).

I’ll credit the divine muse for drawing my attention to Mary’s answer. She follow’s Hanna who answers Eli’s somewhat curt answer to her prayers Let your servant find favor in your sight (1 Samuel 1:18) telling Gabriel Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word (Luke 1:38).

Mary follows a long line of divine servants,

  • from Moses, who when the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, … [and] called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” … [answered], “Here I am.” (Exodus 3:4)
  • to the young Samuel, who after 3 ttimes getting up to serve Eli, who had not called him follows Eli’s advice, and when the Lord called again Samuel! Samuel! answered Speak, for your servant is listening (1 Samuel 3:10)
  • to Isaiah, who heard the voice of the Lord saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? answers, Here am I; send me! (Isaiah 6:8).

Christopher Seitz notes that the emotional response to a divine call is the experience of standing in the presence of God (Seitz). Like the prophets, like God’s servants before her Mary now claims a place in God’s household, her partnership with God (Harrelson).

Far beyond simply holding Mary in high esteem her reply Here I am, … let it be with me according to your word (Luke 1:38) has implications for how we live into our baptism. Mary is not unique because she was so perfect; no, Mary is unique because she was willing to say “yes” to the unexpected and the apparently impossible (Epperly). In our baptism we are called to believe that the world is transformed when we say “yes” to the unexpected, and to what we see as impossible. God still presents possibilities for new birth and we are called to carry these possibilities to term and nurture them into the fullness of their lives (Epperly). A measure of how we are following God’s will is how our obedience flows from divine blessings. And the greatest of blessings are bound up in our fellowship with God (Culpepper).

Gabriel’s reply to Mary’s perplexity Do not be afraid reverberates throughout the rest of Luke’s story and, if we are honest, throughout our stories. When the status quo is about to be altered and the rhythms of the everyday life are about to be disrupted our calling is to speak and be the comforting image of God’s presence (Smith).

The glory of Christmas came about because of Mary’s and other ordinary people’s willingness to obey God’s claim on their lives. The light continues to shine as you, and I, and our neighbors, and other ordinary people follow Gabriel’s role to provide comfort in perplexity, and Mary’s “yes” Here I am, let it be with me according to your word (Luke 1:38). Thus, as we just say “Yes” we will sing as our souls proclaim the greatness of the Lord.


References

Culpepper, R. Alan. New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary The Gospel of Luke. Vol. 8. Abbington, 2015. 12 vols. Olive Tree App.

Epperly, Bruce. The Adventurous Lectionary. 24 12 2017. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/author/bruceepperly&gt;.

Gaventa, Beverly Roberts and David Petersen. New Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary. Nashville, n.d.

Harrelson, Walter J. The New Interpreters’ Study Bible. Abingdon Press, 2003. E-book.

Hoezee, Scott. The Lectionary Gospel Luke 1:26-38. 24 12 2017.

Pankey, Steve. “A comfort in perplexity.” 24 12 2017. Draughting Theology.

Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob. New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.

Seitz, Christopher R. New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary The Book of Isaiah 40-66. Ed. Leander E. Keck (NIBC) Song of Songs 8:8. Vol. IV. Nashville: Abingdon Press (NIBC) Song of Songs 8:8, 2015. XII vols. Olivetree App.

Smith, Shively. Commentary on Luke 1:26-38. 24 12 2017. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/&gt;.

 

 

 

 

Surprised by new hope

A sermon for Christmas Eve

Isaiah 9:27, Titus 2:1114, Luke 2:114(15-20), Psalm 96

I’m tired, are you? I’ve just flat been busy; not bad stuff just lots of stuff. Beginning on Thanksgiving, with helping to pack nearly a 1,000 Thanksgiving Day meals, I have participated in seven board or related meetings; participated in or been to four programs or parties. I’ve helped Angie host our own party, made one out of town trip to visit to grand kids and oh yea, our daughters and their spouses, we had a great, but tiring time. On top of the seasonal stuff I’ve also made regular scheduled stuff like two nights at the Great River Charitable Clinic and three all day trips to Little Rock, Jonesboro and Memphis. And oh, how can I forget I’m trying to get ready for January’s D.Min. session; I ‘m really excited about it, but it’s a lot to add to an already busy schedule. I’m tired. Are you tired?

If the calendar isn’t enough I’m tired of all the junk in the news. I’m tired of the North Korea mess. I’m tired of poorly hired, trained and resourced police getting entangled in tragic events. I’m tired of angry, emotional, disconnected, folks taking advantage of tragedies for personal privilege or gain, whose actions degrade the hard work of faithful courageous folks seeking justice and righteousness. I’m tired of people assassinating police or soldiers. I’m tired of people using guns whenever they get upset about anything, including a messed up McDonald’s order (Meyer)  I’m tired of our own inability, including my mine, to see the harm we do to others who are not like us. I’m tired of ISIS, the Taliban, and others who use gross previsions of Islam to abuse and oppress others; the same goes for abuse of Judaism or Christianity or any other faith’s holy writ. I’m tired of the endless messes in Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan. I’m tired of Ebola, and fear driven reactions, that limit help, far more then they protect. I’m tired of Putin the Thug. I’m tired of our own political thuggery, again including mine. I’m tired of rampant sexual misconduct and poorly thought out responses driven by fear, embarrassment and, let’s be honest misogyny. I’m tired of tired of child abuse, in whatever form. I’m tired of people naming everything that’s uncomfortable and beyond our understanding as mental illness. I’m tired of entrenched endemic ignoring of what can and ought to be done for mentally ill. I’m tired of the news media drowning us in the small percentage of the tragic and the terrible that terrifies us all the while ignoring the enormity of the good that goes on simply because they know fear sells advertising. I’m tired. Are you tired?

Mary and Joseph are tried.  Mary has ridden a donkey and Joseph has walked 70 or 80 miles. Jesus has just been born, Joseph has got to be tired, I was when my girls were born, and I didn’t do anything. The bible doesn’t mention any one being around to help mid wife Mary. Mary is REALLY tired; yes giving birth is extraordinarily joyful but my observation is it’s exhausting. Mary, Joseph, and all Israel are tired.

All Israel is tired of the Roman Empire. Yes they bring the Pax Romana but it’s on their terms, and don’t try to change anything. Their Emperor dares to call himself a god. Everyone is literally tired, everyone had to walk miles to register, to pay poll taxes. Everyone is tired of justice that’s dependent on bribery. Everyone is tired of petty local Kings, backed by Roman Legions, whose job is to control local populations, by any means. All Israel is tired of Herod the brutish tyrant who rules Palestine. He’s not even Jewish! Everyone is tired of taxes they get no benefit from. There are taxes on farm produce, anything bought and sold, on houses and land; there’s even a kind of progressive income tax. To collect them all Rome make use of greedy tax collectors, locals who get rich by over collecting taxes due.

Everyone is tired of the Jewish authorities, who are always maneuvering, scrapping with each other to win favor with Herod and or Rome, imposing dubious religious obligations and/ or restraints for their own benefit; and to collect even more taxes, such as the Temple tax and a second tithe on produce of land. All Israel is tired. Are you tried?

Shepherds are tired. They are not highly regarded. They work from early morning till early morning. Sheep have to be lead to food, so shepherds walk them to pasture. Sheep have to be led to water so shepherds either lead them to a stream or dig a well. The only chance to sleep is when sheep nap after watering. Sheep easily get lost so it takes a constant watch to keep them from wandering away; and since they can’t find their way home, shepherds lead them home. And after a long hard day shepherds protect the sheep at night from wild beast and thieves. Shepherds are tired. Are you tired?

So yes, Mary & Joseph are tired, all Israel is tired, and the Shepherds are tired. Life is hard the prospect for improvement is difficult to see. [Pause] Into this cold bleak mid-winter night so long ago Angles appear singing tidings of great joy, to tired poor cold shepherds, who drew the night shift – again; for to them that night, there is good news, there is a new savior, they will find in oh that little town, who will be in bands of cloth – swaddling clothes. It must ring with surprising authenticity because they take the risk and go to see. To their surprise they find the place and just as the angle said they find Jesus in a manger, with lowing cattle all around. They tell Mary and Joseph what the angle said. It matches what Gabriel said, and Mary wholeheartedly ponders the meaning as, the only now mentioned, gathered folks are amazed. Shepherds ~ are surprised by new hope. [i] Mary & Joseph ~ are surprised new hope. All who hear ~ are surprised by a new hope. A new hope Emmanuel is right here God’s presence, in flesh and blood, that you can reach out and touch, is right here. Into this cold bleak mid-winter night there is new hope that darkness will give way to light, that the oppressive tiresome yolk will be shattered, that justice and righteousness will be established. And this new hope is not just present to Mary and Joseph, or to first century Israel, or to shepherds, or to those gathered around. This cold bleak mid-winter night’s new hope is with us, everyone. As they were surprised by new hope: Emmanuel, God’s presence, so should we be.

In the face of the cold bleak mid-winter international turmoil, national mayhem, local confusion, personal chaos, we are not alone ~ Emmanuel is right here, right now, and always will be. Surprised by new hope we need never be tired again, for we never have been, nor ever will be alone, God is with us, right here, right now.


References

Easton, Matthew George. Easton’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary. WORDsearch Corp, 2008. ebook.

“Holman Bible Dictionary.” WORD – QuickVerse , n.d.

Meyer, Holly. “Man pulls gun after wrong McDonald’s order.” Tennessean (2014). <http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2014/12/23/police-man-pulls-gun-wrong-mcdonalds-order/20797161/&gt;.

Orr, Jame, ed. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. WORDsearch, 2004.

Wright, N. T. Surprised by Hope. 2008.


[i] Inspired by NT Wright’s Surprised by Hope

Here I am. Make it so. Amen.

A sermon for Advent 4

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16, Canticle 3 or Canticle 15 or Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26, Romans 16: 25-27, Luke 1: 26-38

The Star-Ship Enterprise –D warps through the galaxy exploring new worlds all at the command of Jean-Luc Picard’s “Make it so.” It’s almost like ‘Amen.’ A crew member hands him a Kindle he reads whatever is there, sometimes signs it, and sometimes says “Make it so.”

‘Amen’ comes from the Hebrew meaning to be firm, or truth, or faithfulness; and in some instances “so let it be.” (Orr) Jesus’ often used introductory phrase “I say to you…” is the same Hebrew etymology as ‘amen’ (Holman) so we can see the impetus of “make it so” is similar to the impetus of ‘amen.’ And before you get all excited, no I don’t think the Angel Gabriel is a starship captain out to influence the direction of human development. However, there is a connection with Mary.

The Angel Gabriel brings a message to Mary from God. The short form of the story goes:

Gabriel: Greetings!

No ~ don’t be afraid, God has chosen you, and you will have baby to be named Jesus.

Mary: How can this be – I’m not married yet?

Gabriel: It’s the Holy Spirit!

Mary: “What?”

Gabriel: Nothing is impossible with God, your aunt Elizabeth is pregnant.

Mary: Here I am. Make it so. Amen.

This story is one of my favorite, for more than its Star Trek parallel. It resonates with Isaiah:

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

the Old Testament reading for my ordination to the priesthood. Mary answers as Isaiah does “Amen.”

In fact the conversations parallel each other: God calls, either directly or through a messenger, the person objects, God gives assurances, sometimes there are multiple rounds of objections and assurances, the one called  finally sees what God sees in them, (Jaconson, Lewis and Skinner) and accepts the calling a form of “let it be,” or “make it so,” or “Amen.” Academics have various names but essentially is a call narrative. Through it Luke associates Mary with biblically significant people like: Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.

There is another list of significant biblical characters Mary is associated with, at least in part, Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Elizabeth. Though she is not barren, Mary’s pregnancy is mystical, clearly God is present with her.

It’s important to note Mary hasn’t done anything special, she is simply favored (Lewis) simply blessed. Like all who serve God, God calls first, what some call election; our response to the call has the potential for divine service. (Jaconson, Lewis and Skinner) You’ve heard me say it before, most often related to life’s tragedies and troubles; however, it applies to God’s call: life happens, calls come, how we chose to respond, whether we trust God, or not, makes all the difference. Mary’s chooses to trust God.

According to Christian belief, no one will ever again be theotokos, mother of God; which raises the question how else is does Mary serve as an archetypical character for us. Karoline Lewis wants Mary’s witness to take Advent beyond its short season so that God coming to us becomes a way of life, a way of faith. (Lewis) So how is one like Mary and allow the here I am – make it so – Amen to come alive?

Julie Gibeau has limited means. Nonetheless, she sees children who have less, and believes that, especially at Christmas, they need to see and know happiness. So for six months she has been baking banana bread. So far, the 1000 loaves she’s sold, has yielded nearly $3000 she uses to buy toys for kids who otherwise would see little or nothing on Christmas morning. (Noel) And then there is Jarrett who won a tablet at his schools fund raiser. He surprised everyone, when he sold the tablet, and with judicious use of coupons and sales, bought nearly $300 worth of toys for other kids: a blanket to a little girl to stay warm, books for another kid to read, and toy trucks for “someone special.” Jarrett said:

Giving is the right thing to do…because you know that another kid might really, really need it … (Ready)

I expect all of us know similar stories, or folks who have and continue to be quietly kind and generous to others, at Christmas, and throughout the year. In their own way they’ve responded: let it be, make it so, Amen.

Steve’s parish is celebrating their 91st anniversary this week. In one of his blogs he wrote:

We can learn a lot from Mary’s example, but as important as it is to show up and say “here I am,” it is even more important for a community of the faithful to join together in saying “Here we are,”

He is right; as important as it is for individuals to say “here I am” there are some things that only the community can convey as together we “here we are.” Sixty First Ave United Methodist Church is a humble congregation, whose members are generally low income, give of their time and selves. For the last 18 years they have run the Last Minute Toy Store, providing toys to neighborhood kids, 90% of whom qualify for free lunch at school. Last year $200,000 in contributions bought 20,000 toys that were distributed to 4,600 children in 1,400 families. The store draws volunteers from all over town, and many receive toys for their family. It’s exemplary of Rev. Paul Slentz teaching of “ministry with the poor instead of for the poor.” (Fiona)

Some times “here I am” is not associated with Christmas. We all know that last week Australia was victimized by a Muslim terrorist. You may not know the incident increased already heightened anti-Muslim sentiment. Rachel was sitting next to a woman on a train; as it came to a stop she quietly began removing her Hijab, head scarf. Rachel told the woman, “Put it back on, I’ll walk with you.” Michael James heard the story, posted it online which rapidly spread with the hashtag #I’llride withyou. (COHEN)

[pause]

There are many examples of local folks and community actions that tell similar stories. Still, everyday God’s message “You, yes you, my favored one, don’t be afraid, here’s what I’m asking, don’t worry, nothing is impossible.” dances through our lives. Everyday individually and as a community we have the opportunity to stop, to question, to express doubt, to choose to believe, to choose to trust, to choose to say: “Here I am.” “Make it so.” “Amen.”

[pause]

Amen!


Bibliography

Bates, Rev. Dr. J Barrington. Sermons that Work – 4 ADvent. 21 12 2014. <http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/&gt;.

COHEN, NOAM. “Turning #IllRideWithYou Into Real-World Action.” New York Times (2014). web.

Fiona. The greatest gift. 21 12 2014. <http://www.faithandleadership.com/features/articles/the-greatest-gift&gt;.

Hoezee, Scott. The Lectionary Gospel Text is: Luke 1:26-38. 21 12 2014. <http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/thisWeek/index.php&gt;.

“Holman Bible Dictionary.” WORD – QuickVerse, n.d.

Jaconson, Rolf, Karoline Lewis and Matt Skinner. Sermon Brain Wave. 21 12 2014.

Lewis, Karoline. Dear Working Preacher: Advent as a Way of Life. 21 12 2014. <workingpreacher.org>.

Lose, David. Advent 2 B: Blessed Like Mary. 21 12 2014. <davidlose.net>.

Noel, Christine C. “Mom who had nothing bakes for month straight to pay it forward.” USA Today (2014). web. <http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2014/12/16/inspiration-nation-mom-loaves-bread/20461849/&gt;.

Orr, Jame, ed. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. WORDsearch, 2004.

Pankey, Rev. Steve. “Here I am. Here we are.” 21 12 2014. Word Press: Draughting Theology. <http://draughtingtheology.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/hereiamhereweare/&gt;.

Powell, Mark Allen. Commentary on Luke 1:2638. 21 12 2014.

Ready, Lauren. “Boy turns winning prize into gifts for needy children.” USA TODAY (2014). web. <http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2014/12/15/inspiration-nation-boy-wins-prize-needy-kids/20318809/&gt;.

A sermon for Christmas

Isaiah 9:2-7, Titus 2:11-14, Luke 2:1-14(15-20), Psalm 96

  

The people who walked in darkness

       … those who lived in a land of deep darkness … 

It is no ordinary darkness Isaiah speaks of.  Isaiah’s prophecy emerges in the midst of all consuming political oppression. [i] Ahaz, King of Judah, the Southern Kingdom of the Jews, has formed a political alliance with Assyria because he is afraid of Israel, the Northern Kingdom, and her allies. It is not a good deal, Judah is a vassal, under constant oppression, and frequent violence, that sets neighbor against neighbor. It is a dark, dark time. 

Judah’s / Israel’s relationship with Rome doesn’t begin with a willing invitation, they were simply conquered, and a Legion was garrisoned there, to keep the peace, ~ for Rome. Israel is again a vassal subject to constant oppression, and frequent violence that sets neighbor against neighbor. Augustus’ decree for a census is for the benefit of the Empire, not Israel, not Jerusalem, not Bethlehem, not Nazareth. Forcing everyone to return to their home town may be oppressive, it is certainly manipulative. It’s a demonstration of raw power; I speak: you and your entire family, town, tribe, are uprooted. Not sure how dark, but times are dark. 

Mary and Joseph get a double dose. They are going to Joseph’s home town, going to family, and in first century Palestine you expect hospitality, hospitality that is required. No Vacancy should never have been a problem. They should have been welcomed by someone, anyone in the extended family. And Mary’s pregnancy would make them, at least her, a priority. Think about your visiting family, uncle Bob might, but your pregnant Aunt would never draw the sleeping bag on the floor. [ii] Oppressed by Rome, rejected by family, Mary and Joseph are living in a deep darkness. 

Three stories over the last few weeks have sharpened, re-imaged, my tired view of Luke’s narrative. The first is a decades old memory. One cold winter night, as the last freight train of the night rolls out of town a hobo stays behind. The police soon pick him up. The hospital determines he is not sick enough to stay there. The local homeless shelter determines he is too sick to stay there. Everyone one else was, well you what it’s like this time of year. In any case, as an old gospel hymn says  “We Didn’t Know Who You Was;” 

                             … as you did to the least of these …

So, with no other place to go, the police took him to jail. And sometime night, when all who had responsibility dimmed the lights, alone, and in the deep darkness  he died. [iii] 

Elena Dorfman recently finished a stint for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to photograph refugees from the Syrian Civil War. Her task: to put a human face on unfathomable statistics; some two million refugees, of which seven to eight hundred thousand are in Lebanon. The photograph that grabbed my attention, is a discarded freight box, perhaps 3 feet high, and some 3 to 4 feet on each side. It is full of, who knows what; covered with worn, though clean quilt, and an infant boy with a sharp Mohawk hair cut plays inside. 

 

Image

 

Photo by: Elena Dorfman

It’s almost a quaint image, until you notice the bare concrete wall behind the box, and the dirt floor, with scattered pieces of broken rock. What you don’t see: is the working slaughter house, on the other side of the wall; what you don’t see is the pile of drying pelts, just around the corner. Though it is a bright photograph with vivid reds, and brilliant blues scattered throughout, it’s a scene of deep darkness. It’s of people displaced by local violence and oppression,  and foreign collaborators. There are no organized refugee efforts in Lebanon. Perhaps officials are counting on family, and tribal relationships to get the job done. [iv] For some it helps, nonetheless a baby plays in an abandoned crate, as deep darkness enshrouds the land. 

The Cones are Eastern Orthodox Christians, fostering a 5 and a 10 year old, who are brothers. They are gradually introducing them into their Advent and Christmas traditions for which the brothers have no context. Each night they share a couple of scripture verses, and a bit of candy. The night comes when the verses told of no room in the Inn, and baby Jesus’ birth in a barn with a manger for a bed. The 10 year old’s head bows, his face is drawn and serious. Ms. Cone asks what he thinks Mary and Joseph feel. Remembering the cold night on the streets, and sheltering in someone else’s car, as safe haven, ‘casue there was nowhere else to go; remembering his mother, ~~ abandoning them, he answers “Sad. Cold.” and quietly tears flow as the deep darkness is remembered. 

And then there are the answers to a continuous flow of questions: 

Is  the baby in the manger is the same Jesus they heard about at church. 

Yes.

Do Christians really believe that the Son of God was born in a manger, without a home to call his own. 

Yes. 

Did shepherds in that part of the world really sleep out in the cold while protecting their sheep from, among other threats, lions.

Yes. 

Did coming face to face with an army of angels freaked the shepherds out.

Yes.  [v]

Light begins to dawn, darkness begins to fade away as the glory, the presence of the Lord is revealed. 

For century upon century we have sanitized the Gospels’ birth narratives. Look at nativity scenes. All the characters are pristine and clean; but: 

  • Mary and Joseph have been on the road all day, there is no bath, 
  • the cave or barn is full of animals, ~ and animal stuff, 
  • the shepherds, are night shift shepherds, the bottom of the worthless working folk;
    and they’ve been working since when? and walking for who knows how long?
  • what about the angels? they left the shepherds in the field! there aren’t any at the barn! 

The birth scene writ large is the dominated by Assyrian and Roman oppression. Writ specific it’s context is familial rejection it’s setting is degrading, dirty and smelly. But, it is here where light of the world is born, not because of any human action, the powers of the day are as oppressive as ever, and family and friends are as capricious as ever, light is born into the world by the grace of God a gift of God to those who live in deep darkness. 

In ’67 we don’t know what powers pushed a man on to the lonely rails, we don’t know what standards were not met, nonetheless a lonely man who walked in the dark, dies, alone, in the dark. Today we know the powers at play in Syria. A baby refugee playing in an abandoned box is perhaps sign of parental ingenuity; certainly it’s a sign that we do not yet see the incarnate presence in front of us. Yes, Jesus is the incarnate presence of God. But incarnation touches every corner of the universe; it infuses every person with the presence of God, thus every person, every child is heir to the incarnation. In sharing Christmas with two foster sons the Cones are sharing light that can transform a young man’s dark experiences. But he too shares a deep truth that can transform us. Christ Jesus is born into darkness: the darkness of  the world the state, our community, our homes, and our selves. With the courage of a ten year old, when we face our darkness we will find:

a light shining brightly in our presence,

lives being transformed,

yokes being broken,

burdens being lifted;

we will find

peace, righteousness and justice;

we will hear,

no ~ we will sing ~ a new song:

Glory to God in the highest,and peace on earth,goodwill toward men!

 


[i] Ingrid Lilly, Working Preacher, Commentary on Isaiah 9:2-7,  Christmas 2013 

[ii] Rev. Cano n Frank S. Logue , episcopaldigitalnetwork.com http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2013/12/09/christmas-eve-abc-2013/, December 24, 2013 

[iii] Paul Greenberg, m.arkansasonline.com http://m.arkansasonline.com/news/2013/dec/21/fo ur-mo re-days-20131221/ Four more days

 [iv] Qainat Khan, NPR hereandnow.wbur.org http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2013/12/03/photographer-syria-portraits  

[v] Terry Mattingly, m.arkansasonline.com http://m.arkansasonline.com/news/2013/dec/21/telling-nativity-story-help-foster-boys-20131221/ Telling Nativity story with help of foster boys Saturday, December 21, 2013

Mary, wine and belief

Today is the observation of St. Mary, and as often as this reading is used a reading in marriage rites, it has almost nothing to do with marriage. The, perhaps lost, catch line in this story is the last phrase of verse 11 and his disciples believed in him. Chapter 1 is all about John, the revelation of Jesus identity and the beginning of gathering disciples, some of whom express an opinion about who Jesus is. Nothing is said about believe, Nathaniel’s proclamation … you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” is close; however Jesus reply might cause us to ponder if it is a very zealous expression of identity, but not belief. After (indirectly) witnessing the water becoming wine, it is clear the disciples believe in Jesus.

Their belief is wonderful news. But my attention has often been caught by the exchange between Mary and Jesus, between mother and son. She tells him the wine is out. He tells her, not my problem, not my time. His mother then tells the servants to do what ever Jesus tells them to do. It’s powerfully evocative of God ‘s words in the Transfiguration (Mark and Luke) listen to him. They do, Jesus does what Jesus does, bring life where this is none, and people, here the disciples, come to belief. So maybe this is a model for intractable problem solving. Tell Jesus the problem. Listen to him, and do what he says. Look for new life. The best part is not that the problem will be solved, but that people will come to believe, and that’s where true life is.