Friday, December 30, 2016
Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed. Luke 1:1-4
A New Year is just around the corner...and for the first few months of 2017, I want to invite you to embark on an adventure with me through the Gospel of Luke. Launching into Luke will take us on twists and turns through Jesus' life. Luke is a master storyteller. Luke is often credited not only with the Gospel bearing his name, but also the book of Acts (the history of the early church). Luke's opening offers us several insights:
1. He acknowledges that there are other accounts of Jesus' life. In addition to the three other Gospels in the New Testament, we also know there are Gospels according to Thomas; Judas; Mary Magdalene; James; and others. Luke tells us these are orderly tellings of Jesus life that were offered by those who knew Jesus...walked with Jesus...knew the sound of his laughter...the sting of tears at Jesus' death...and the mysterious miracle of resurrection/eternal life.
2. Luke wants to add his voice into the mix...
Stop right there...how would you tell an orderly account of Jesus' life? Where would you start?
Like Matthew and Luke you might start with a birth of Jesus...like John you might start with a poem...like Mark you might just excitedly jump into Jesus' adult life.
What details other details about Jesus' life stick in your memory banks? Maybe his baptism? A parable? An interaction with religious leaders or tax collectors?
I encourage you to actually try this...write the Gospel of Jesus' life according to you. What wisdom of God's love sits on your heart and soul that you would want to share with others? For me, I am taken by the fact that in the Gospels...especially in Luke chapter 1...the phrase, "Do not be afraid" occurs over and over again. In a time when fear is an undercurrent...when we don't trust others who voted differently than we did...when we don't really know our neighbors...when civic/community involvement is on the decline...fear/isolation/and hold one another at a distance by interacting through a screen becomes a norm. That is how compelling/relevant the Gospel is for such a time as this. Do not be afraid. Remember that there was much to be afraid of in Jesus' day. Roman ruled with an iron fist. Roman soldiers where scattered about, constantly peering over your shoulder. Crucifixion was a public policy to keep the masses in-line. Fear floated in the air. Yet, God was still creating, even then and there. What would it mean to start a story of Good News by acknowledging the fear we feel, yet saying that fear does not get the last word? What would it mean to start a story of the sacred stirring, not in military might or fist pounding on a table because I am right, but in a tiny baby born and laid in a stone cold manger? That kind of story Luke tells compels and captures my heart.
I invite you to write down details about Jesus' life that you might recall...write a story about Jesus speaking to your heart.
3. Finally, if you are wondering why or if it is really okay to do such a act...I draw your attention to the name, Theophilus ~ this is can be translated "God-lover" (theo = God...philo = love). This Gospel is written to God-lovers. This might have been someone specific or a general word that can embrace us all. We tell this story of God's love because we have been embraced by God's love. We tell this story of God's love to invite others into the spirit swirling sense of God here and now. We tell this story about God's love because we cannot keep quiet.
So take some time...let Luke's introduction spark your imagination to tell the good news (Gospel) of God's presence and love for you my dear, Theophilus- reader. For you are God's beloved too and we have a story to tell.
May the love of God stir in your heart and connect you to this sacred story of the incarnate presence of God not only 2000 years ago...but here and now in our lives in 2017,
Grace and peace ~~
Sunday, December 25, 2016
May the holy mystery of this day stir in your heart.
May the star light soak your skin and drench your soul.
May the promise of God enter in...
Find room to take root...
And radiate from your life as the star shone down on this silent night.
May you be steeped in the sacred, silent, holy night
And may that be true every night in 2017,
Let the hope, peace, love, and joy guide you and ground you in the days and weeks to come.
Friday, December 23, 2016
The outline the stable door is just ahead as the stars overhead cast shadows dancing.
The soft cry of a baby creeps out from under the door.
We might now want to interrupt, but something keeps beckoning us both inside and outside of us.
We step closer to the door and see the unmistakable outline of shepherds;
Those who were considered outcasts and even thieves by some.
We put our hand on the door and hear the words of foreigners from the East;
Why would they be here?
But either group might say the same of us.
Stepping inside the warm straw tickles the tips of our toes.
The smells of the stable remind us this is no mansion;
The manger in the center captures our attention.
How can we claim that God was laid in a stone, cold, feeding trough?
That seems unusual.
How can we claim that God entered into our world barely noticed by anyone?
That seems unusual.
How can we celebrate a truth that for days and years afterwards the world didn't heed?
But our unusual, unexpected God has often traveled uncharted paths.
Our unusual, unexpected God has often turn our world upside down.
So, this...this is where the world forever changes.
This...this is where our faith steps out the back door of the stable into the world with a hope, peace, joy, and love.
This...this is the place where our eager anticipation of Advent finds its fullest voice.
Because this...this is God incarnate...in the flesh...that makes our skin race with goosebumps and our hearts soar with joy.
This is God with us and for us...not just tonight, but every night for days, weeks, and the year to come.
May that promise stir in your heart this day and especially tomorrow as we gather to worship.
Wednesday, December 21, 2016
The colors converge, culminate, come together
Flowing, flooding, and fading into one another.
It is difficult to discern where one ends and another begins.
Just as the...
Past and present and future converge, culminate, and come together on Christmas Eve.
On a holy, silent, star-filled night, we remember that God is still creating, crafting and loving the world into being.
When Hark the Herald Angels Sing above O Little Town of Bethlehem,
We remember that God is not finished yet.
And our own story converges in the mystery of God laid Away in a Manger.
Our past...hopes and fears of all the years.
Our present moment...when we sense a peace that surpasses understanding in our soul.
Our future moments...when we need God's love and joy to guide us.
This threshold called, "Christmas Eve."
This converging moment when we sense God who was, is, and will be with us and for us.
God who called to Moses from a burning bush.
Who inspired Miriam's song.
Who interrupted Samuel's sleep.
Who gave strength to Ruth.
Who called out to Isaiah, Esther, and Amos.
Who came to us as a tiny baby.
Who is the light of the world.
That mysterious, thin place moment, when we know our lives are caught up in a convergence with the sacred.
Sometimes it is too fleeting and fading, moves out faster than a the circus from town.
Sometimes we want this truth to linger and last, but it leaves through the back door...
Yet, the truth of Christmas beckons us to follow.
Follow to those who feel lost, lonely, and left out.
Follow to the sound of laughter and tears.
Follow to a lakeside where a rabbi is out in a boat preaching about God's presence making all the difference.
If we let Christmas lead us out the door, we might sense that Christmas never left us...just asked us to follow so the good news might converge with the world God so loves.
Now that is a joy to and for our world.
Sunday, December 18, 2016
Words like love and joy fall from our lips this time of year;
We sing them in church;
We send them in cards;
We let the stir and simmer in our hearts;
They are drenched with our prayers that this time they might take root.
We know that these are more than words;
They found life and breath and expression in the life of Christ.
We know that these are more than words;
They are God's vision, prayer, dream of what our world can still be.
Can love find space in a world where words are tossed around so carelessly?
Can joy find a place in a world where there is too much pain, hurt and need for healing?
The response to God on Christmas Eve is an emphatic, "Yes!"
But not in a way of might makes right.
God's "Yes" was a weak force of a stable, under starlight, barely noticed save a few shepherds...
And who would believe them after all?
God's "Yes" was a weak force of wise ones from the East, foreigners, who got lost following the star...wound up on Herod's door...
And who would believe them after all?
Who would believe us that what we will sense in six short days changes everything,
Especially when the rout news cycle hits repeat after a few short lived days?
Who would believe us that joy and love are more than words when the rulers of the world
still sneer and scoff at such a sentiment?
But that was true two thousand years ago.
Caesar didn't even flinch.
Christmas for powerful and prestigious didn't even register.
But for us...
For those who have stood in the straw and stared into the eyes of the vulnerable God,
We know that love and joy are more than words.
May the truth, promise, and light of this season take root in your lives this week.
Saturday, December 10, 2016
I question how silent that first Christmas was? I've been there when a new baby cries, unable in any other way to communicate. I question how peaceful that first night of Jesus life was? Interrupted by knocks at the door by shepherds and wise ones who didn't even think to bring a tuna casserole. I question if all the words we sing are more about us than recording history. We long for hope to dance in eyes, peace to still our souls, love to be embodied and joy to be shared. We long for angels harking and sheep softly sighing. We long for a cuddly Christmas.
But maybe the truth is messier than we can imagine. A child crying finds peace in the embrace of a mother tenderly and timidly holding that infant. A child longing find hope in parents willing to be there day-after-day. A child searching for love is reassured in those moment when the deepest, widest meaning of unconditional is experienced as you help with homework and make them eat the green beans. A child who searches for joy can find even that in the smallest insect crawling in the dirt that awakens laughter.
But such is true not only for children but for adults too. Perhaps more. But our rational and reasonable minds echo the words of Scrooge. Hum bug. Hum bug to timidness, the world shouts. Hum bug to the slow steady presence. To those poetry and music...and even beauty? Maybe one day we might discover that the promise of Christmas is about more than a historical moment. Christmas is about God with us and for us that can't be packed away and stored in the attic. Why would we? We need that truth every day in the coming year. Perhaps it is the one promise that can help us find peace.
May the candle of peace continue to guide your way to God's grand entrance upon earth this Christmas.
Thursday, December 8, 2016
Not on the shelf;
Not in the store;
Not in any place;
Were there is want for more.
Not in those homes where words are thrown without care.
Not in the countries where people are treated unfair.
Not only for me, myself and I,
But for everyone who longs for and tries.
Peace is not something we can manufacture or create.
We don't micromanage or even make.
Peace is the flow
Peace is the gift that settles in slow.
Peace comes from within and without,
Sometimes with nary a shout.
Peace comes, enters in, and makes an arrival.
Peace comes, enters in, and is what we need for survival.
Peace to you, me, family and friends.
Peace to the whole world that never ends.
May this peace that surprises and draws us near
Find you this day in ways that you believe God cares.
Let peace be in our hearts, our homes, and our world.
Let it come. Let peace furrow.
May it be so for you and for all.
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
I enter the stillness of the moment.
Begin to explore and experience the silence.
Let the quiet wrap around, enfold me.
Sometimes the stillness comes at the beach with the sun shining bright and sand between toes.
Sometimes the stillness comes at night with a single candle burning before my eyes.
Sometimes the stillness even comes in traffic
Like a surprise guest knocking at my door.
Stillness even here at a red light?
But this peace is deeper than quiet or silence or stillness.
This peace that nourishes my hungry soul is shalom.
Shalom as well being.
My mind, body, soul in harmony.
Shalom as bigger than me too.
The world is at peace.
In A Christmas Carol Scrooge sees is taken by the hand by the Ghost of Christmas Present to scenes on a sea.
He seas people in boats, out on the seas of life, toasting Christmas morn.
This fleeting, fading too fast moment when peace is shared.
Peace connects us.
Peace is the shared dream for the whole creation.
Peace where the lion and lamb, the old divisions are put permanently away before we have found a new way.
A new way of being God's people.
But the distance between today and God's realm sometimes feels like a chasm.
The distance between today and God's realm, peace on earth, can feel like it might never be bridged.
But there are those moments when peace is found in our hearts, our home, and even our world.
May the peace that surpasses understanding and certainly our control enter into your heart this Advent season.
Friday, December 2, 2016
Can hope really be found in a stable where the wind whipped through the cracks in the walls along with the flies?
Can hope really be found in a place where cows and sheep and humans all crowd together to keep warm?
Can hope really be found in a cramped space and dirty, dusty place?
God's wisdom is not our wisdom.
Because if hope is found in a cold stone of a manger filled with soft straw, maybe hope can be born in our hearts cold with fear.
Because if hope is found when the wind moves through flimsy walls, maybe hope can be born in the flimsy walls of our communities and homes.
Because if hope is found with an eclectic gathering of two unwed parents, ragtag/outcast shepherds, and foreigners...maybe that calls us to where hope is still be born again.
Not necessarily in neat, tidy churches, but in the messiness of life.
Not necessarily in people who think and look like us, but in the harmony of those who sing differently.
Not necessarily among the elite and powerful, but among the meek and lowly and least.
After all God's wisdom is not our wisdom. And perhaps it behooves all of us to listen deeper for our still speaking...still creating...and still hope forming God.
May God's hope awaken in your heart and may we cultivate and care for the flame of hope flickering and guiding us to a stable of all places.
Advent blessings ~~