“Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”… “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the dear hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them.”
I have a hunch that the question John’s disciples put to Jesus is a question that we all ask: “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” All human hearts seek God. Like the newly-born baby bird who falls out of his nest in P.D. Eastman’s children’s classic, Are you my mother?, and who runs around asking various things, “Are you my mother?”(the dog, the airplane, the steam shovel) so do all of us humans run around to different things to ask, “Are you the one who is to come? Are you God?”
All human hearts seek God. But only God is God (and not the steam shovel, or the plane or the dog). And Jesus urges John’s disciples – he urges us! – to pay attention. “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard.” Pay attention! Pay attention to what brings healing and wholeness; pay attention to what makes life more full and gives joy. Continue reading →
If Jonah Lehrer’s new book, A Book About Love, is any indication, true love is less about roses and romantic dinners and gazing into another’s eyes than it is about getting the chores done, showing up when you said you would, and learning to set aside your wants and finding pleasure in your partner’s wants. In the end, steadiness is what will carry the day, says Lehrer, keeping a relationship vital and bringing joy and satisfaction.
At first glance, Lehrer’s premise may sound good. But New York Times columnist David Brooks disagrees. In his review of Lehrer’s book, Brooks writes: “It could be the truth is actually just the opposite,” that “crazy” love rather than “steady” love will, in the end, carry the day. Continue reading →
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19
Like it or not, our Gospel for this Second Sunday of Advent challenges us with two profoundly counter-cultural realities in our time and place: prophecy and repentance. As we continue our spiritual preparation to celebrate the birth of the Messiah two-thousand years ago, and to welcome him anew into our hearts and into our world—now, and at the close of the age—holy Church asks us to hear and to heed the fundamental message of the prophets of God throughout salvation history. For, regardless of the historical circumstances, every prophet has sounded one clear and consistent message over the ages: The “people of God” have fallen short of the glory God intends for them, and they must remedy matters by “repenting,” by “changing the direction from which they are seeking their happiness.” Whether it’s by the Hebrew word “teshuvah” or the Greek word “metanoia,” the biblical call to repentance always requires a radical “change of mind and heart,” a turn-around, and reformation of life.
It should come as no surprise, then, that prophets themselves are usually even less popular than their message. And very often, they find themselves either expelled from their community or murdered by the “Powers and Principalities” of this world, as Saint Paul refers to them. It was true for the prophets of the Hebrew Bible; it was true for the prophets of Jesus’ own time; and, regrettably, it will be true for the prophets of today and of every era. John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah and the focus of today’s Gospel, suffered beheading at the command of Herod Antipas—Rome’s puppet ruler of the Galilee—after which John’s head was presented on a silver platter to Antipas’ wicked stepdaughter Salome. According to the Gospels, the news of John’s judicial murder shook Jesus to his very core—and for obvious reasons. His execution was the prologue to Jesus’ own Passion and Death. Continue reading →
Signs of endings all around us, darkness, death and winter days, Shroud our lives in fear and sadness, numbing mouths that long to praise. Come, O Christ, and dwell among us! Hear our cries, come set us free. Give us faith and hope and gladness. Show us what there yet can be. – Dean Nelson
Two years ago Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. As many of you may recall, she died a month later, just after Christmas. Two years ago today when my parents went to church, the opening hymn was the hymn we just sang:
Signs of endings all around us, darkness, death and winter days, Shroud our lives in fear and sadness, numbing mouths that long to praise…
Neither could make it through the hymn.
Advent – the Church’s season of New Year that we begin today – reminds us that life changes, and that change always involves letting go. Let me say that again: Advent reminds us that life changes, and change always involves letting go. Continue reading →
He did not create it a chaos; he formed it to be inhabited. – Isaiah 45:18c
Perhaps it’s because of the recent climate conference in Paris, or perhaps it’s because temperatures in Boston have been 20 and 30 degrees warmer than usual for this time of year, but when I hear this evening’s reading from Isaiah 45, I can’t help but think of global warming. God created this word “to be inhabited,” says Isaiah, “He did not create it a chaos.” Or, as another translation (the New American Bible) puts it: God did not create this world to be a waste, but designed it to be lived in. This world is our home, designed by God for us to live in; it is not for us to make it a chaos or a waste. Continue reading →
Here we are on “Gaudete” or “Rejoicing” Sunday. We have reached the halfway point in Advent, which we mark by lighting the pink candle on our Advent wreath this morning. It signals that we now have less than two weeks to prepare our hearts and our world for welcoming our Lord Jesus Christ, who came into our history as a vulnerable and innocent child, at Christmas. And so, Saint Paul’s admonition in today’s reading from his Letter to the Philippians: “The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything….” came to me as a thunderclap—especially in the wake of the foreign and domestic terror attacks of the past month. “Really,” I thought to myself, “do not worry about anything?” And then, seeming to add insult to an incandescent injury, Saint Paul goes on to say, “…but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guide your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Clearly, I groused, Saint Paul’s words have nothing to do with the backdrop to this Christmas of 2015 and our violent and distracted world. I wonder just how many of us are “rejoicing”—let alone “praying”—with just eleven so-called shopping-days until Christmas and, more ominously, in the overshadowing presence of such sheer evil—foreign and domestic—in our midst.
Icon Holy Innocents
And, if we widen the lens of our vision just a little, we must somehow reckon as well with the sad irony that children are suffering and dying all over our world: 8,000 die every day from illnesses caused by lack of access to clean water; 20 percent of American children live in poverty; and at least 250,000 civilians—many of them children—have been killed to date in Syria’s on-going civil war, with almost one-half of that country’s population having been driven by the fighting to foreign refugee camps or to the dangerous and unwelcoming shores of southeastern Europe. We need not look any further than our news outlets to see that Bethlehem’s “Holy Innocents” are still being slaughtered in their thousands by the “King Herods” of our world! For so many of us, rejoicing may not even be on our agenda this Advent. Continue reading →
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Well, here we are this morning, at both the beginning of a new Church year and our first liturgy together as a brand new congregation. I can’t speak for you, but for me, the First Sunday of Advent has always been my personal “New Year’s Day.” And it is even more so this year because today, our formerly two parishes are now (finally) one.
Now, in the bad-old-days of political incorrectness, when we marked recorded history with the designations “B.C.” or “Before Christ” and “Anno Domino” or “In the Year of Our Lord,” this First Sunday of Advent would have been the first day of the two-thousand and sixteenth “Year of our Lord.” And while Jews and Muslims—our sisters and brothers in the Abrahamic faith—still proudly keep their own religious calendars and mark their years according to their own reckoning, we “thoroughly modern” Christians have foresworn our legacy and now carefully avoid offense with the bland designation “CE” for the “Common Era.” And perhaps, after centuries of anti-Judaism, Eurocentrism, and Christian supersessionism, we Christians are right to observe this small courtesy toward our Jewish and Muslim neighbors and fellow believers in the one “God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” Blessed be He—especially in these fraught times. Continue reading →