Church


Today we celebrate “The Annunciation of Our Lord,” which is a pretty big deal.  But as I read the blurb in Holy Women, Holy Men (and thought about the name of the feast) I was struck by a feeling that we didn’t get it quite right!  I know.  That’s pretty presumptuous of me.  But let me explain. (more…)

This is a poem from Daniel Berrigan’s Time Without Number (from An Almanac for the Soul):

They set out in bright approving summer:
flags, gold, imagination attending
down charted roads, the star like a sun of night,
and at earth’s end, the unique King awaiting.

Autumn too was lovely and novel:  weather temperate
and the star mellowing slowly as a moon.
Then winter on them:  the light snuffed out:
hearsay, frontiers, men inimical to dreamers —
and what direction in iron snow? — a hind’s track
diminished in ivory, a white birch stricken to ground
and the sky tolling its grey dispassionate bell
upon age, upon infinite heart’s weariness.

So the great came, great only in need,
to the roof of thatch, the child at knee awaiting.

[To order An Almanac for the Soul contact the Iona Center, P.O. Box 1528, Healdsburg CA 95448; ionacenter@comcast.net; or 707.431.7426]

That’s the title (with the You in italics, which I can’t get the the heading) of a short piece from Martin Luther I found in Watch for the Light — a book of daily readings for Advent and Christmas that I’m using this year.  And, I guess if you’re looking for dandelions, you’ll find dandelions.  Because it fits with my sermon for tonight (which I posted yesterday).  It fits well enough that I’m considering adding it as a postscript:

The angel said to them, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people; for there is born to you this day a savior, who is Christ the Lord.”  [Luke 2:10]

“… [The angel] does not simply say, Christ is born, but to you he is born.  Neither does he say, I bring glad tidings, but to you I bring glad tidings of great joy.  Furthermore, this joy was not to remain in Christ, but it shall be to all the people.  …Christ must above all things become our own and we become his.  This is what is meant by Isaiah 9:6  “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.”  To you is born and given this child.  … The Gospel does not merely teach about the history of Christ.  No, it enables all who believe it to receive it as their own, which is the way the Gospel operates.”

This is my sermon for the Vigil tomorrow night:

My father named me Jacob, after the patriarch — for all the good that does!  What good is a name like that to a shepherd?  People today forget that Jacob himself really was a shepherd.  They refer to their leaders as shepherds.  But they mean it figuratively.

They look at real shepherds with contempt, and go out of their way to avoid contact with us.  They call us thieves behind our backs — and even sometimes to our faces.  But they wear our wool and eat our meat all the same.

Shepherds live hard lives in some ways, exposed to the hot summer sun and the cold winter winds, fighting off wild animals, working throughout the day and night when necessary.  I’m told we also smell.  I wouldn’t know.  But they say we pick up the odor of our charges, and people of breeding turn their noses up when we are near. (more…)

This will be my Christmas Greeting (to come out in early January) for my congregation this year:

The word “incarnation” has been on my mind this past week.

It means something like “in the flesh” or “given flesh” – as in Jesus was born in the flesh on Christmas Day.

But I’ve found myself thinking that we, as Christ’s mystical Body, give flesh to Christ in our own community today.

Our hands are not just our hands:  they are God’s hands.

Our eyes are not just our eyes:  they are God’s eyes.

We act for God today.

We represent God today.

What we do puts flesh on God for the people around us today – just as Jesus puts flesh on God for us as Christians.

And this idea carries over from the season of Christmas (that runs through January 5th – Twelfth Night) into the Epiphany (January 6) and the season following, which is about what Jesus did in the world.

Jesus wasn’t just born.  Jesus acted.  Both are necessary parts of God’s incarnation in this world.

In our baptisms, we are reborn (by the power of the Spirit) in Christ.  And we are called to act, to incarnate Jesus’ presence, in his Name.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.  May we live out the spirit of Christmas in the year ahead.

This is what I think is going to be my Easter sermon this Sunday, so members of my congregation may not want to read it (before then):

One phrase that really caught my attention in the Daily Office readings this past week was from John’s gospel:

“The truth of the matter is, unless a grain of wheat falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.” [John 12:24 The Inclusive Bible] (more…)

A lot of the daily office readings from the Hebrew Scriptures for Lent are from Jeremiah.  He began his work as a prophet during the reign of the reforming king, Josiah, and in these Dueteronomic reforms, the cult was to be centered in the Jerusalem Temple and justice was to be done for the widows, the orphans and the oppressed.  At first Jeremiah supported these reforms.  But over time, it came to be about a kind of cultic legalism, a personal purity, and concerns for justice for those in need fell away. (more…)

I continue to find Sam Portaro’s “Brightest and Best” a wonderfully insightful and challenging book about our saints and seasons in the Episcopal Church.  This morning, I read his thoughts on The Epiphany of Our Lord (which is tomorrow).  He starts by noting that the number of the “kings” is three by tradition (probably because the “kings” brought three gifts), but that we don’t really know their number — it is never given to us.  And he continues by noting that the term “magus” was “often a contemptuous name for itinerant magicians and entertainers.”  We like the idea that the wise and mighty (“kings”) of the world recognized Jesus.  But they could just as easily have been “a troupe of wandering artists whose whim to follow a star brings them to the cradle of Jesus.”  And he talks about the “exotic, mysterious, and wonderful” possibility that “some simple and foolish people, drawn to the side of the manger, might surrender everything to the unknown child therein.” (more…)

I have a strong sense of Advent from a year ago.  It was a time of real renewal for me.  Part of that was from being able to participate in the Benedictine Weekend Retreat at the Bishop’s Ranch in Healdsburg (which I would love to be able to do regularly).  Part of that was beginning to get immersed in the monastic version of the St. Helena Breviary.  I haven’t been able to maintain that level of immersion, but I think that’s still really feeding my spiritual life.  Much of it was sheer grace – simply a gift.

On the other hand, I have very little sense of Christmas from a year ago. (more…)

Yes, I know.  For most people, Christmas started around Thanksgiving and ended on December 25.  Many of the mega churches started holding their Christmas services weeks before Christmas Day.  But, for me (at least “officially” for all Episcopalians and others who celebrate a traditional “liturgical” year) Christmas is a season that begins on December 25 and continues through the evening of January 5 (The Epiphany is January 6, when the three “kings” come with presents for the baby Jesus).  So I’m really in the middle of my celebration of Christmas. (more…)

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