I have been enjoying “Holy Women, Holy Men (Celebrating the Saints)” — which replaces and greatly expands (and also edits) the old “Lesser Feasts and Fasts.”  We added just over 100 new names to our (optional) calendar.  And it’s been fun seeing who’s now included.  Harriet Beecher Stowe, the great opponent of slavery and the author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” (the best-selling book of the nineteenth century — Lincoln is supposed to have said, upon meeting her, “So this is the little lady who started this great war!”) is there.  (more…)

Another theme I’ve been running with recently, here and elsewhere, is finding our ministry and seeing our faith in the everyday here and now of our daily lives.  The “Almanac for the Soul” also had a quotation that made me think more on this (“Yes, World” by Mary Jean Irion):

Sometimes I wondered if
I had any faith. (more…)

What if doing evangelism meant simply being yourself?  That’s the question they ask at the dooable evangelism site (dooableevangelism.com).  I looked it up because I’d heard it described by a colleague, and it sounded attractive and, well, dooable.  They right up ordinary actions, normal daily practices of  your life of faith.  Here’s one.  Maybe it will whet your appetite:

Half Of What’s Mine Is Yours (more…)

We have reached the point in Christmas where energy is running pretty low.

We’ve had enough parties.  We’ve even celebrated the ringing in of a new calendar year, which for most people really marks the end of the celebration (recovering from it all over football and parades as the new year begins).  The church, however, celebrates that day as Holy Name Day.  (Jesus would, by custom, have received his name on his seventh day of life.)  Ok.  I have to admit I watched football. (more…)

My friend Mary wrote this piece (one draft, unedited) in the writer’s group last month.  It’s the third part of Descended from the Dead:

He descended to the dead….  I have felt at times as if I were on a descent to the dead: no life in me, no passion, no joy, no purpose… Maybe even felt like I wanted to go to that place of quiet oblivion, but only envisioning it as: divorce, abortion, adopting out my children, then running away: end of life as I knew it. (more…)

For my Advent discipline this year I’m going to be reading “God With Us” (Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas), Edited by Greg Pennoyer and Gregory Wolfe.  It features daily writing for Advent (and for feasts through Epiphany) by such writers as Scott Cairns, Emilie Griffin, Richard John Neuhaus, Kathleen Norris, Eugene Peterson and Luci Shaw.  I’ve already done some browsing.

The major question for me was whether to wait for Advent and live through the season day by day with the book, or to start tomorrow (and maybe be able to use what I’m reading in the week ahead.  I’m pretty sure at this point I’m going to start tomorrow, hoping that I can use some of what I’m reading with my congregation in a timely manner.  (We’ve already got our second reading for our early service on I Advent set up to use an excerpt from Neuhaus’s piece for that day.  I’m hoping it will inform my sermons.

So far, I really like what I’ve seen.  I’m looking forward to using this as a daily reading (maybe in conjunction with Morning Prayer).  I have to thank my wife, Anne, who found this and bought this for me.  There are some wonderful advantages to having a librarian in the family!

As you might gather from the title, it’s geared towards discovering the meaning of the incarnation (Jesus’ birth) in our lives.

David Mullen wrote the second piece on “descended from the dead.  It follows:

Christ going down into the bowels of the earth–a metaphor for going deeper than we ever want to go–into the human condition, into the extremity of hopeless, far from God, supposedly, and lost.  But tradition has it that he preached to them.  Ah, so then the dead were undead, that is, not full of life, but able to hear, and receive the gospel.  Hope and Life! (more…)

In my writing group today we did a variety of writes.   One of them was running with the idea, taken from the Apostle’s Creed, that Jesus “descended to the dead.”  If all goes well, I will have three very different writes on this subject to share.  The first of them is mine:

I’m pretty sure I’ve never really understood even what I meant when I affirm, in the creed, that Jesus descended to the dead. (more…)

I’ve been thinking, of late, about my own core beliefs.  And I find that there are, perhaps, three places from which I’m inclined to begin.  The first is Jesus’ story of the two brothers and their unreasonably indulgent father.  (Luke 15:11-32.  We usually call this the parable of the prodigal son.)  The second is Jesus’ summary of the law (see Matthew 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-34, and Luke 10:25-28 — but also Luke 10:29-37, usually called the parable of the good Samaritan).  The last is John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”).  You probably have to look at John 3:17-18 to give this a fuller context.  I guess I’d also have to add something about the incarnation (Jesus as fully human, not just God) and the resurrection (God’s power restore and renew even what seems lost forever) – and you can only talk about resurrection when you also talk about crucifixion.   I’m still thinking about this.  But this would form the core of my good news.

Most, if not all, of this is connected to narrative.  Which is fully appropriate.  Listening to some Christians, you might not know this.  But Jesus was a story teller, not a law giver.  Moses was the law giver.  Jesus was always trying to invite us into a story that made us think about what life with God was like.  I really like that about him.

I’ve already addressed Jesus incarnation in How God Made a Home, where I said:

God is looking for a new way to come into the world.  God is looking for a new way of working in the world.  He finds his point of entry in the person of a young woman.  We’d probably call her a girl.  My best guess is that she was 12 or 13 years old.  Marriage documents seem to have been signed between her and an older man.  I’m guessing Joseph could have been anything from about 15 to about 30.  They were living apart, with the marriage unconsumated — probably because they were giving her an extra year to grow up first.  And God sends a messanger to her (Luke 1:26-38 — our gospel reading).

God asks her to make a home for him.  God asks her to bear a child and call him Jesus.

I addressed it more directly in my Merry Christmas message, where I said:

Christmas tells us that God comes to us, not from on high, but from down below.  Jesus is born to an unknown woman from a subjugated people.  He comes to us as a baby — and there just isn’t all that much needier than a newborn baby.  Jesus comes to us from a position of dependence, not authority.  In my mind, in Jesus, God comes to invite us, even to court us, not to lord it over us.  There is an assumption of equality on God’s part that draws me into a very different relationship than it would to a God who came down from on high to make demands of me.

And that, for me, may be the most important thing there is to know about God.  God chooses to approach us by invitation.  God chooses to invite us into the beauty of holiness.  God chooses to share our condition, the human condition, and experience all the joys and trials and tribulations of our lives.

That probably says enough about my sense of the importance (centrality) of incarnation.  I’m expecting I will try to say more about other beliefs that are core beliefs for me in the near future.

Some people talk about God’s power.  For them, that’s the most important thing about God.  God is all powerful and all knowing and, when you come right down to it, completely overpowering.  And being in the presence of God can be overpowering.  But, for me, that is not one of the more important things about God.  At least, it’s not where my relationship with God starts.

(more…)