“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
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
There is a church about the same size as ours in southern Ohio.
In just about every way there are just like every normal church, they sing songs, listen to sermons written just for them, they pray for one another, and they enjoy eating food together.
But there was a little undercurrent within that community that has the potential to unravel the church.
See in this poor rural town where they all live Fracking has become a pretty big thing and the church was being touched on all sides by it. Because of being a poor community there wasn’t a lot of work to go around. When the gas companies came in to start the fracking and set up gas plants, there was a significant burst in jobs and a number of folks from the church were finally able to get work. This was a good thing. Children were eating better and were able to get clothes for school, bills were finally getting paid off, even the stewardship committee of the church was happy to see that giving was up a little. But there wasn’t the space to openly celebrate the way you might a wedding or a baby dedication.
Finally, my brothers and sisters, farewell in the Lord.
The letter to the Church in Philippi reflects Paul’s own uncertainty about his life and what I think is his own trying to prepare his community for his passing (cf. 1:6; 1:20–24; 1:27; 2:5–11; 2:12–13; 3:7–11; 3:12–16).
The letter itself is believed to have been written around 62 CE and Paul is believed to have been martyred under the reign of Emperor Nero shortly thereafter.
What is even more moving is a word Paul chooses to use throughout his letter: chairo. It is used 9 times in this letter. It can be translated as rejoice. Here are a couple instances:
Phil. 2:17 But even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.
Phil. 3:1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again to you is no trouble for me, and it is a safeguard for you.
Phil. 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, Rejoice!
The story of Jonah is propelled forward, we learn, because Calamity looms over Nineveh. We don’t know what kind of calamity it would look like, all we know is that there is pending consequences for the Assyrian empire.
And Jonah is told by God to walk headlong into this situation, “to go and proclaim to, rather than against, the city” about what is about to happen.
This is significant. It is also significant, I think, that the first and only time a biblical prophet is asked by God to go into a non-Jewish city and give it a message from the Lord.
“Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, “Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.”
(Jonah 1:1–3 NRSV)
Jonah is an old story, and it is even an over-told one. We so used to it being told from the perspective of Jonah as a vegetable, or other children’s stories that it seems too simplistic to be of use to us. Either that or we are caught in debates about whether it is a factual story or who are the wicked “Ninevites that need to be evangelized that” it can be difficult to find where Jonah fits for us today. But the story of Jonah – I like to think of it like a parable similar to a parable of Jesus’ – is something that is neither simple nor about evangelism, at least not in the way we have tended to think of it.
I want to start with an image from the natural world, that symbolizes the marks of transformation is the metamorphosis of the butterfly.
How many of you have had the opportunity to watch a chrysalis transform before your very eyes into a butterfly? I find the metamorphosis of a butterfly captivating and beautiful. But, as with anything kind of change that takes place, it must happen carefully and in its own time. Each stage of metamorphosis is essential in the process of the butterfly becoming its “true self.”