As the previous year comes to a close, I’m reposting some articles from 2014 I wrote elsewhere on the web. This is a post I wrote about grief that originally posted on the blog Antioch Session.
I find it hard to carry the weight of my own pain, let alone the weight of another. I have found that the grief we carry is sometimes so heavy, so disorienting, even – sometimes – so embarrassing (how could I let this happen me?) that it is hard to share that weight or let it out. The weight of grief is compounded by the inability that we all experience of isolation and being unable to see beyond it. Grief is a lot like floating out in the middle of a deep lake, nothing close by to grab onto. Unable to see the bottom, I tread water and try not to panic.
Even as a pastor, facing these painful moments with others can often be scary. Realizing this, I recently shared some of my fears and questions with a friend who is a retired therapist. His response to me was not what I expected. “I was afraid too,” were the words that fell from his mouth.
Our passage this morning presents two contrasting groups of people discerning the will of God. King Herod and the Theologians on one side and the “three wise men” or Magi on the other.
The arrival of Jesus makes for a very real, very large scale, as in cosmically-sized, conflict that is introduced into the human narrative and these two parties are the first to go head-to-head over the matter.
This baby, of divine royalty, the one people were waiting for as the messiah or new moses, has managed to slip almost completely under the radar. How humiliating then that this all happened right under Herod’s nose. And to add further insult to injury it takes three pagan Astronomers from the East to come and point this out to him. Continue reading We Are The Stargazers (Matthew 2:1-12)
During the third of my four weeks off I hit a major wall. I had written three chapters and was at the point that I needed to bring together a variety of key ideas and thinkers and I just couldn’t figure out how they all wove together – not exactly where you want to be this late in the game but that is where I was with it. My advisor, Ryan Bolger (Fuller Seminary), told me I needed to take a day to pray and meditate. This was a time where I needed an “aha” moment and I couldn’t force that to happen. This was not the advice I wanted! I had a week and a half left of the mini-sabbatical the church gave me and I needed to keep working, but he was right, no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t make it happen.
“Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.” (Luke 1:26–38 NRSV)
The day of visitation
Our text this morning gives us a glimpse into what early Quakers would call “a day of visitation.”
“The basic idea of the Day of Visitation is that there is a period of time in everyone’s life when they are open to hearing the voice of the Divine and acting on it. If they are attentive and obedient to this Divine Seed, it will grow and flourish in them and they will be led into a greater and stronger faith. If they ignore it, if they push it down and trample on the seed, eventually it will stop growing.” (William Taber – Link )
“I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.” (Ezekiel 34:13–16)
I saw a poignant illustration of what Ezekiel is talking about recently in the film Snowpiercer, which I might say is really all about the theme of exile. Front and center in the movie is this impulse of empire to preordain some to the front of the train and some to the back. Continue reading On Being Exiled, Trains and Belonging