It is advent, a critical moment in the church calendar.
It is post-election, a critical moment in the life of the United States.
Advent is marked as a time of quiet, expectant waiting. There is hope in birth narratives of Jesus, but it is hope tempered by loss, defeat, and suffering that comes from living under a brutal imperial regime. There is no fanfare in his coming, it is noticed only by poor shepherds and Pagan Stargazers. The priests, pundits, and powerful elite were unaware.
This US election is marked by something vastly different. It unmasked the anger, pain, division, and in many cases, hatred of those ‘others’ operating as scapegoats for the US Empire. Fanfare is on order for the triumphant party, running victory laps, rallying one side over and against another. Whipping people up into a frenzy for a great return. The priest, pundits and powerful elite rejoice. Continue reading Mary: Revolutionary for Our Time
There has been an evolution of thought for me when it comes to understanding how to read, interpret and teach Scripture within community. That evolution has taken place over the course the last 18 years or so (I’ve been leading bible studies since I was in High School myself). It began with the basic thought a biblical teacher’s role was to teach the text. This meant raising key ideas and helping people to get the right answer about how to understand what God is saying in this verse or passage.
But over time, my approach has shifted away from this teacher-based model to one that is more participatory and dialogue oriented. There are a few factors that have helped me make the move.
“Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13–17 NRSV)
Have you ever said no empathetically, because you believed that you were without a doubt right, only later to learn that saying no was going to be a big mistake?
I had a “No” like this that I said to God’s face once. When I was first called into ministry I flat out said to God, “No way, no how.” I felt kind of bad because of my attitude. [After all, my parents taught me to talk respectfully to my elders. If God wasn’t one of my elders, who was?]
So I back tracked a little and said,
“Okay God, I hear what you are saying. But here’s the thing, there is no way on earth that I would ever want to be a pastor — don’t you know I want to be a musician, an artist, a film-director, pretty much anything but a pastor. So here’s the deal. You are going to have to make me want to be a pastor, actually make me desire it and see how I fit with it. Because there’s no way on earth I’m doing something I don’t want to do like that.”
“In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” (Matthew 2:1–2 NRSV)
One of the most interesting episodes from the radio program, On Being with Krista Tippet, I’ve ever listened to was titled, “Alive Enough: Reflecting on Our Relationship With Technology.” For the program, Tippet interviewed Sherry Turkle, an MIT professor who has done research on the prolonged effects of technology in the practices of everyday life. Turkle’s book “Alone Together” is aptly titled and describes how we as a society are increasingly connecting with one another in ways that may look like we are together, but leave us experiencing deep loneliness.
“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13–16 NRSV)
Do we have a PR Problem?
Have you ever had the experience of telling someone you are a Quaker or that you go to a Quaker meeting and get a bit of a blank stare? You watch as the wheels turn and then the person you’re speaking with says one of these things:
So you’re amish?
You mean like the guy on the Quaker oats container?
I have no idea what you’re talking about?
If you’re lucky, you might get a response like “Wow, I really like what I’ve read about Quakers.” Aren’t they the folks who were involved in the abolition movement and women’s suffrage?
I actually don’t mind any of these responses because they’re all something to start with, and usually the person I’m speaking with is interested enough to give me a minute or two to explain myself further. And with of all the brands we could be associated with, I suppose it could be a lot worse than oatmeal.
This is the third of four short meditations on prayer based on Luke 18:9-14:
“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9–14 NRSV)
Another thing this parable teaches us that prayer can help us to see ourselves more clearly.