Friday, December 16, 2016

Logos Isaiah 7:10-13

Isaiah 7:10-13:

Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.  But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test. Then Isaiah said: "Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also?  Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.
  • If God wants me to have a donut, then there will be a parking space in front of Jolly Pirate.
  • If God wants me to give money to this homeless man, then he'll know to ask for $2.76.
  • If God wants me to become lay leader, then Shirley - the woman who never attends the Lay Leadership Committee meetings - will be the person who asks me to do it.
  • God must want me to go to Disneyland because that stain on my blanket looks like Mickey Mouse.
OK, I'm being silly, but do we ask for signs before we are obedient? Do we sometimes fail to recognize that God has already provided all of the guidance that we need? Could it be that we don't want to see all of the signs around us?

So we wait. And while we might not ask for something as silly as a Mickey Mouse stain, we do avoid looking into the eyes of the homeless man, or answering the phone call from the pastor. We fail to heed even the most obvious directions from God, not because we are blind to the signs, but because we refuse to see them.

Or am I the only one who thinks so? Who does this?

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Job Description for a Mother

Imagine for a moment that it was your job to find the mother of Jesus. I don't mean to go on a hunt for Mary, but I mean, what if you were the one God chose to find the woman who would carry and raise the Christ. What would be on your list? What would you look for in the mother-to-be?

Would she be learned? Old enough to know the ways of the world? Married to a "nice, traditional Jewish man?" Would she be in a family that had enough money to provide a "good home?" Perhaps it would be helpful if she read and spoke Hebrew so that she could help with understanding the Torah? In all serious job searches, we want to find someone with experience, so even if she wouldn't have raised a Messiah before, maybe it would be helpful for her to have had other children first, so that she wouldn't be a "rookie" parent. Maybe a priest's wife, so that her husband could show the son the ropes of the faith. All of that, plus be kind, gentle, but firm?

Maybe she would be the perfect Proverbs 31 mother, owning land, knitting clothes, dyeing wool, keeping her family warm and her husband proud of her?

And who does God choose? Mary. A young teenager in a no-where town, who was unmarried, and not at all experienced. Why choose her?

Mary was full of grace.  What does that mean? I think it means that God had gifted her with the ability to love others. To see the poor and alone and to have a heart for them, the way God does. To be full of grace would mean that she could forgive the child when he stays behind in Jerusalem to teach in the temple. To be full of grace might mean that she could survive when he leaves her to go and preach on the mountains and in the valleys among those who would not be welcomed in most homes. Maybe to be full of grace would mean that she would have enough faith to live through her son's death, even as she had to watch it happen.

Perhaps God chooses better than we ever could.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The World is About to Turn

I taught Sunday school a few weeks ago. I took the lesson out of Adam Hamilton's book, Not a Silent Night. For chapter 4, Mary, Full of Grace, he suggests using the song "Canticle of the Turning," a rewriting of the Magnificat, as a part of the lesson.

This is the chorus:
My heart shall sing of the day you bring.Let the fires of your justice burn.Wipe away all tears,For the dawn draws near,And the world is about to turn.
The world is about to turn. Mary, in her song, sees the world as it is, and she sees what the coming of Jesus will mean. Christ will bring justice and mercy to God's people. She, though her obedience, will make it possible. This is part of why she is said to be "full of grace." She has received the grace fo God, and she knows it. She knows what it means to respond, by sharing grace with the world. And she knows the difference it will make - that it can cause the world to turn.

Where in your life do you need to share the grace of God? Where in your life, and in the lives of those around you, can you be God's light? Where can you cause the world to turn?

We spend so much time complaining about the world around us, and yet, how are we changing it? To whom are we offering grace?

It isn't easy, and I know it isn't something I want to do, but even so - think of the person in your life to whom you do not want to offer grace? And then go offer it. And the world is about to turn.

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Monday, December 12, 2016


You are the light of the world.  The primary function of light is not to be seen, but to allow others to be seen as they are.

I heard that at a meeting a few weeks ago.  What do you think? 

The primary function of light is not to be seen. That's true - we don't actually see light. We see what reflects the light. So our function as the light of the world is not to be seen.  As the adage goes, "It's not about us."

Our function as light is not to be seen but to allow others to be seen as they are. At first that sounds like our function is to illuminate the sins in others. It sounds frightening and judgmental - I don't want to be illuminated as I am. But that's not what it means - it means to illuminate people as they are, and what they really are, underneath it all, is beloved children of God. We are to illuminate that in people - they way God sees people - the who they really are. 

We can do that.


Friday, December 09, 2016

Logos 35:1-7

Isaiah 35:1-7:
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, "Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you." Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
And here we are again, in Isaiah, listening to the prophet proclaim water in the desert. Have you ever experienced a desert in life? Have you known times when your spiritual nature seems dried up? Have you ever wondered where God is, and why God isn't near you? Have you sat in worship and wondered why you were there at all?

This passage reminds us that dry times happen. I believe faith life - the experience of the presence of God in abundance - is cyclical. I don't mean that God is there sometimes and not at other times. I mean that our awareness of God's nearness - those times when the Holy Spirit seems to burst forth in our lives like the famous ever flowing stream - can ebb and wane. We will experience times of drought.

But these words remind us that crocuses can bloom in the desert. That during times of apparent drought, there can be rejoicing. "Be strong; do not fear. Here is your God."

Maybe that's part of Advent. Maybe remembering that God is present, even during times when we aren't aware of God, is part of preparing for the coming of Christ. Maybe having faith that God IS coming, even when we can't sense God, is part of preparing our hearts to receive God. The grace of faith prepares the way.

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Thursday, December 08, 2016


Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse, Maine
In Wishful Thinking, Frederick Buechner writes: :Religion has often been denounced as escapism, and it often is. To deny the prevalence of pain the world and the perennial popularity of evil.  To abdicate responsibility for them by assuming that God will take care of them very nicely on his own."

Do we do that? I think all of us do at one time or another. How often do we pray for something, and then refuse to listen to God when God leads us to a solution that will involve service on our part? Do we pray for the homeless and then do nothing to find them homes? Do we pray for the hungry and then fail to feed them? Do we pray that someone else's behavior will change without ever examining our own behavior and how it perpetuates the behavior in another?

There are those things we cannot change, and pray is a God-given gift we can use to accept that, and lift it to God for solutions or help; or to just get through it. But there are those things we can change, and instead, we sometimes place it in God's hands and walk away.

We can't do it all, but aren't there some things we can do, with God's direction and help?

"The best moments we any of us have as human beings are those moments when for a little while it is possible to escape the squirrel-cage of being me into the landscape of being us."

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Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Unlike Anything she had Seen Before

The smell of the city was indescribable
And it was nothing like home.
The crowds, the sounds, the noise,
Was foreign.
The pain in her back
As she rode the donkey
Could be ignored
If she concentrated on the people around her.
It was unlike anything she had seen before.

When Joseph had told her
That they had to go to his hometown,
She thought Bethlehem would be interesting.
She wanted to know more about the man
Who would be her husband.
She never considered that the journey
Would take her through Jerusalem.
She was looking everywhere,
She hoped that they would leave soon.
It was unlike anything
She had ever seen before.

She ran a hand over her swollen belly,
Ignoring the rough feel of the cloth
To marvel at the push of the tiny feet
Against her skin.
Still amazed that there was life growing inside of her.
Still shocked that she had been chosen
By God.
To carry this child.
To be mother to the incarnate God.
It was unlike anything
She had ever imagined before.
It was all so very much unlike

She remembered the stories
Her parents had told her as she was growing up.
Stories of Solomon and his palace.
Stories of Kind David.
And she looked around,
Wondering if she would see
Where these wonderful places
Had been.
Wondering if she would pass the temple.
The holy place of God.

Where would this trip take her?
What would it mean to her life
That she had said yes to God’s angel?
What would it be like to give birth
To a baby?
To this baby?
To be a wife?
To be a mother?
To raise the man who would be greater
Than King David?
It was unimaginable.
It was unlike anything
She had ever seen before.

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Monday, December 05, 2016

Know Peace Together

For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.  But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent--its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the LORD.  Isaiah 65: 17-18 and 25

My normal pattern for writing for the blog is that I write several posts ahead of time, and I plan out what will be posted at what time.  I'm writing this post before the election, and I do not see much evidence of the lamb and the wolf feeding together - I do not see much evidence of peace among us.

This will be posted after the election, and my prayer for all of us is that we shall know peace together. I pray we shall not hurt or destroy each other. This peace is the vision of the new heaven and the new earth - this is the ideal of God. It is God's will that we should love each other. May it be so, for you and for me.

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Friday, December 02, 2016

Logos Isaiah 11:6-10

Isaiah 11:6-10The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.  The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.  The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder's den.  They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.  On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.
Read this, and you might be thinking, "I don't know who this Isaiah is, but his plan is impossible, and could be dangerous.  Who in his right mind would allow a child to play over a poisonous snake's den? Who would ever imagine that a lion would change its nature and not kill to live?" We read these words and we experience moments of wonder and delight at the image they bring, but who would expect this to actually be truth?

We know the nature of the world. We know that leopards are predators, and that children are not normally in leadership positions. We know that snakes are dangerous, and that bears and cows are not best friends. We know that war is sometimes necessary and that our society rewards success, at times not caring about the cost by which it is achieved. We know that the rich won't go hungry, while the poor do. We believe people should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and if they are not successful in life, they don't deserve to be. We know that addicts can quit, and that sex sells. If you and I don't know it, then society knows it for us.

And yet...

There are these words that tell of something different. Something impossible. And what these words describe is the kingdom of God. Do we believe it, or don't we?

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Thursday, December 01, 2016

Grace and Forgiveness

Despair has been called the unforgivable sin - not presumably because God refuses to forgive it but because it despairs of the possibility of being forgiven.  (Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking)

It is impossible to think of forgiveness without considering it in the light of grace. Grace is the unmerited and unlimited love of God for us. Because of grace, we have been forgiven - not just of sins that we can excuse, but of all sins. And not just you and me, but everyone.

Do you believe that? Or do you believe that there are sins that God won't forgive? Or sins that we have to work very hard to convince God to forgive? Or people who God will not forgive? 

And if grace abounds, and all sins are forgiven, and God offers grace, even to you and me, then what barriers do we place in front of God that block our reception of God's grace?

And what barriers do we place in front of other people to prevent them from experiencing God's grace and forgiveness?

And perhaps the hardest question of all, if we are called to act as children made in the image of God, following the model of Christ, then who have we denied the grace of forgiveness?

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