Saturday, January 15, 2022

Christian Testament Text for Sunday 16 January 2022

1 Corinthians 12:1-11          Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says "Let Jesus be cursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

Reflection        Just a few paragraphs after the text from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians we discover even more gifts; And God has apostles, prophets, teachers; deeds of power, gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. (1 cor 12.28)  And if you have not yet seen your gift mentioned, not to worry. Paul has several more lists. In his letter to the Romans we find gifts of ministering, teaching, exhortation, generosity, leading, compassion and cheerfulness. (12.6-8)  to which he adds in his letter to the Ephesians, apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastors. (Eph 4.11-12)

Turns out just about anything that anyone does for the good of others ranks among the gifts given to humanity. And here is the thing, rather than being grateful recipients of these unearned gifts and generously dispersing them for the good of others, too often we identify with our gifts, presume to be the source of the gifts and exploit them to enhance our personal power, privilege or pleasure. Or we fall into a different trap, denying our gifts, hiding them under the proverbial basket, allowing them to dissipate and disappear. 

Translated from the Greek charisma, gifts are favors received without earning them, without merit. Charisma is also translated as grace which refers to God’s impelling goodness in relationship with humankind. Therefore we can think about our gifts as the outward and visible expression of God’s inward activation grace. 

Think of it this way. God’s grace is like a seed planted at the center of our hearts. When we bring our heads into our hearts the river of  consciousness opens the way for the seed of grace to flow, scratching the surface of our awareness. When grace rises to conscious awareness we are illumined. With our minds are illumined by grace we are ignited, on fire, compelled to allow that grace to flow through us in the form of our gifts.

This is what Paul means when he writes, “Now there are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit… the same God activates all of the gifts in everyone.”

God activates the gifts that are already in us. All that is required is that we turn our attention around, bring our heads into our hearts, and open the way for grace to flow, delivering our particular gifts to consciousness and fruition.

So the question is how do we bring our heads into our hearts and open the way for grace to flow through us?

I believe we begin by consciously affirming our desire to be the vessels through which God’s grace flows. Then we turn our attention to our hearts. By directing our attention to the center of our chests, the core of our being, we take the intention of our head and bring it to our heart affirming, “It is my intention to be the vessel through which God’s grace flows.” Bringing our heads into our hearts we align our will in the will of God and when we are at one in the will of God, grace flows like a river to illumine our minds and deliver our gifts for the good of others. 

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Friday, January 7, 2022

Gospel text for Feast of the Epiphany 9 January 2022

 Matthew 2:1-12        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." When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

`And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for from you shall come a ruler

who is to shepherd my people Israel.’"

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage." When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road

Reflection        On fire with passion Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, preached for the Feast of Epiphany in Washington D.C. on Thursday morning, January 6th. Here are a few of Curry’s words I have paraphrased. “ It never occurred to me… that it would be necessary to stand up before the people of God and insist we must reclaim epiphany.  What we saw a year ago on January 6th at the United States Capitol was not about light. This day, Epiphany, is about light, the light shining in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it. …. because we are better than that.  We who claim to be followers of Jesus must reclaim Epiphany and bear witness to the light.” 

Twenty five hundred years ago the prophets wrote in the present tense. “Arise, shine for your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”        “Your light has come….”  The light, life and love of God lives at the core of our being and this light, life and  love of God is meant to flow out of us,  to be given away extravagantly for the benefit of others. We are meant to be epiphanies.

Epiphany is about allowing the light, life and love of God already present in the heart of each of us to shine into the world.  As people of God we are imbued with these precious gifts. But we are not meant to hoard or hold onto them. We are meant to be epiphanies shining these gifts into world. I believe this is how we respond to Curry’s call to reclaim epiphany; emulate the wise men by consciously choosing to go out of our way (even when it means encountering strangers) to offer the gifts of God’s light, life and love to the world.

Each one of us must decide how we will engage the darkness. Do we choose to adopt the mindset of the wise men, go out of our way and deliver our gifts of light, life and love to the world or do we defer to the dark ways of King Herod, living in fear and scheming to secure our wealth and power even when it means the killing of innocents?  What do you choose?

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Saturday, January 1, 2022

Gospel text for Sunday 2 January 2022

 Matthew 2:13-15,19-23        After the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, "Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child's life are dead." Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, "He will be called a Nazorean.”

Reflection        One of the great founding fathers of our nation and champion of the United States Constitution, Alexander Hamilton languished in obscurity until Lin-Manual Miranda’s award winning musical opened our eyes and pierced our hearts with lyrics set to tap and rap. Prior to the fevered success of the Broadway musical Hamilton, the figure on our ten dollar bill, was unrecognizable to many of us.

I believe what the world needs now is a Broadway musical meant to raise another founding father out of obscurity. Joseph. All that we know about Joseph is captured in a few sentences in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke  written 55 to 65 years after Jesus’ death. We learn that Joseph not only taught Jesus the skills of a carpenter but also the tenants of Jewish tradition and practice. 

Luke’s text paints Joseph as a faithful man and observant Jew who brings the infant Jesus to the Temple to be Dedicated and travels every year to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. Matthews’s text sings a different tune. "When (Jesus’) mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose Mary to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.” (Matthew 1.18-19) Even though Joseph has every right to publicly reject her,  he chooses to protect Mary,  to quietly  divorce her until he has the first in a series of dreams that radically change the course of his life and religious tradition.

“…an angel of the Lord appeared to (Joseph)  in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus…’” (Matt 1.20-21) Moved by his dream Joseph chooses compassion. Rather than quietly divorcing Mary Joseph takes her as his wife. 

Months pass until once again we find Joseph dreaming, listening to the angel of God that warns him to take the newborn and Mary and flee to Egypt to avoid King Herod’s edict that all male children under the age of two years be murdered. Again, moved with compassion to protect Mary and the child, Joseph  hurries them to Egypt under the cover of night. 

We know nothing about their life as refugees for the next six years until King Herod dies and Joseph has another dream. “An angel of the Lord suddenly appears instructing, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” (Matt 2.19-20) For a third time Joseph chooses to believe and follow the angel of God’s instruction. He immediately sets out for Israel until the news of Herod’s son taking the throne and a fourth dream warn Joseph to change plans in order to protect Mary and the child. Turning away from Israel, Joseph makes his home in Nazareth. 

Joseph was a dreamer. He found meaning in his dreams so much so that four times he altered his behavior in response to their direction.  I believe Joseph was obedient to his dreams’ counsel because they comported with his pre-existing belief in God’s benevolent compassion.  Full of faith Joseph chooses to align his will in the will of God.  

Embodying God’s compassion and benevolent good will Joseph distinguishes himself as the inscrutable founding father of what would become a reformed branch of the family tree rooted in King David, propagated through Joseph and announced in Jesus.

Although Joseph is nominally recognized as the legal father of Jesus, I believe we have failed to appreciate the significance of Joseph’s influence on young Jesus. Surely the fact that Jesus describes God as a loving father suggests the propitious effect Joseph had with him. 

Throughout this narrative Joseph chooses to step out of his limited personal perspective and step into the vulnerable worlds of Mary and the newborn Jesus. This is compassion. The moment we slip out of our own skin into the skin of others we transcend dualistic thinking that sorts everything into me or you, friend or enemy, good or bad, right or wrong, conservative or progressive. 

Dualistic thinking is the root of much of the suffering and divisiveness we are experiencing today in our families, communities and country because dualistic thinking emphasizes otherness and focusing on otherness fosters fear and division. 

Joseph was justified if he said, “Mary’s pregnancy is not my problem. Let her deal with the consequences.” Or,  “I don’t want to be a refugee in Egypt. I want to return to my home. Herod’s massacre of male infants has nothing to do with me. I am going home.” But Joseph had compassion, he reached beyond his self interest to feel with others. As a champion of compassion Joseph protected Mary and fathered Jesus which I believe deserves a Broadway style shout out. Joseph is a righteous man who puts his head in his heart, so let us remember him as an unsung founding father of the reformed Jewish tradition that we call Christianity.

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Friday, December 24, 2021

Gospel Text for Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning 24 December 2021

Luke 2:1-20        In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see-- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!"

Reflection        Glory and Peace. Peace and Glory.  What is this peace of which we and the angels sing? It is the calm contentment of a newborn, carefully swaddled and tenderly tucked in his homeless mothers arms. What is this glory we proclaim? It is the awe and wonder experienced by new parents, aunts, uncles, friends even shepherds in the presence of the least among us, an utterly dependent newborn.  Peace and glory, glory and peace, these two handmaidens tend the birth of peasants and nobility.  Peace and glory, glory and peace, this holy couple is the right response of humanity to the birth of a child because peace and glory acknowledge the arrival of hope writ large on the stage of despair.

And that, dear people of God, is the reason ‘this day’ more than two billion Christians around the world are telling the humdrum tale of an impoverished couple and their newborn “child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” Have you ever wondered why there are more reruns and reproductions of this epic saga than any other other drama in history?  I believe it is because this is a story for all people and all time. It delivers the message our hearts pine for, that even in our dreary dark nights the promise of new life is born, full of peace and glory, glory and peace.

This day many of us are exhausted. Much like Mary and Joseph we have been plodding through the wilderness of uncertainty; wandering and wondering when we will arrive at a safe and happy place where something good, beautiful and true is born?  We are tired of evading surging storms, a shape shifting virus, and heated partisan voices stoking ill will, anxiety and unrest.  But the Way of Faith is not about waiting for a utopian happily ever after life. Cinderella is not the rising star at the heart of the Christian story. 

Ours is a story that bows before the inevitable anguish and adversity of being human and insists, in the depths of our desolation the seed of consolation is born. Our humdrum tale of an impoverished couple and their newborn “child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger”  reminds us that even in dark nights of distress the promise of new life is born, full of peace and glory, glory and peace.

Perhaps you are pushing back and asking, “Have you not heard the news? A global plague is surging. The economy is slowing. Tides, temperatures and inflation are rising. Differing opinions have divided our families, friends, colleagues and country. Suspicion and violence have become the coins of the realm. How can we possibly say, this day is full of peace and glory?”

My point precisely. Right here, right now, this day, in the midst of social and political upheaval, in the throes of a plague and the shifting tides of fortune and misfortune, right here, right now, the angel of God breaks through the dark night and speaks to us in words that are as fitting for this day as they were two thousand years ago.

“Do not be afraid; for see - I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people.” New light pierces the heart of darkness, and it is here, this day. We do not have to wait for someone to discover a magic elixir and wipe out all disease. We do not have to wait until our debts are paid and retirement secure. We do not have to wait until the perfect assembly of government officials justly rules the land because even in the midst of the most troubled times peace and glory, glory and peace is born. This, my friends, is the gift of Christmas; a newborn wrapped in rags, born on a dark and dreary night, manifestation of hope writ large on the stage of despair.

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                      Merry Christmas

Friday, December 17, 2021

Gospel text for Sunday 19 December 2021

Luke 1:39-55         In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.

When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

And Mary said,

"My soul magnifies the Lord,

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.

Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

for the Mighty One has done great things for me,

and holy is his name.

His mercy is for those who fear him

from generation to generation.

He has shown strength with his arm;

he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,

and lifted up the lowly;

he has filled the hungry with good things,

and sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel,

in remembrance of his mercy,

according to the promise he made to our ancestors,

to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Reflection        For the first half of my life my image of Mary, Mother of God was the tall, slender, blond girl in my Sunday School class wrapped in a pale blue sheet, co-star of the Christmas Eve pageant. She was the chosen one. I was a goat. Fortunately I didn’t have to spend too many therapy hours on Mary, after all in my Presbyterian church Mary’s meteoric cameo came but once a year. The other three hundred sixty four days Hallmark Mary was wrapped in tissue paper and tucked in the church closet.

But there is something about Mary’s song. It echoes in my heart. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour.” Yes, yes, that is what I want. I want my soul to magnify the Lord and I want my spirit to rejoice in God... or anything else for that matter! If God “looked with favor on his lowly servant” Mary, might God also look with favor on me? Probably not. Remember, I was the pageant goat, not Mary. 

Who is this Mary chanting a love song to God? Who is this Mary singing a subversive  verse for social justice? I believe this is not the twelve year old Hallmark Mary, wrapped in tissue and stored in a church closet. This Mary is not fragile or ineffectual, neither is she submissive nor impotent. No, this Mary is competent, courageous and fruitful, without being arrogant, conceited or full of herself. 

I like to imagine this Mary made mistakes, even got herself in trouble like me. Nonetheless, when she experiences Divine Presence described as the Angel Gabriel, she does not become speechless or run away. When the angel addresses her as “Favored one,” and affirms, “The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1.28) and her cousin Elizabeth repeats the message, Mary puts her head in her heart and ponders these things. Mary’s quiet acceptance of the angel’s and Elizabeth's blessing suggests she has a sense of worthiness.  

When the Angel proclaims the inconceivable, unmarried Mary will become pregnant and give birth to a son who will assume the throne of King David and his kingdom will reign forever,” Mary responds, “Bring it on!” “Here I am... let it be with me according to your word.” Bold, courageous and vulnerable, Mary consents to her “with God life.” Dare we do likewise?

It is time to take Hallmark Mary out of the closet, remove the tissue paper and reimagine Mary, Mother of God, as a sound and sane woman who is courageous enough to be vulnerable and vulnerable enough to put her head in her heart. It is time to reimagine Mary as a woman willing to stand in her own authority, disrupt the status quo and claim her “with God life.”  It is time to reimagine Mary as a mother who gave her life to bring to life the promise God made to “our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever,” the promise that God is with and for all people all the time. It is time for us to recognize Mary as a venerable model for our “with God lives.”

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Friday, December 10, 2021

Gospel text for Sunday 12 December 2021


Luke 3:7-18          John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

And the crowds asked him, "What then should we do?" In reply he said to them, "Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise." Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, "Teacher, what should we do?" He said to them, "Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you." Soldiers also asked him, "And we, what should we do?" He said to them, "Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, "I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."

So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.

Reflection        John is cajoling crowds of people who have left their homes to come to the wilderness, listen to an itinerant prophet and be baptized. Several questions loom largely.  Who are these people? What are they looking for? What compels them to leave their familiar places and go into the wilderness? Why do they listen to a grizzly wanderer calling them “a brood of vipers?” Then, instead of leaving when insulted, why do the people ask, “What then should we do?”

Well, I cannot answer any of those questions but they make me wonder about the crowd of folks who show up every Sunday on Facebook Live to “attend” worship at Church of the Apostles. The fact is, most Sunday’s the number of folks worshipping on Facebook Live exceeds the number actually sitting in the sanctuary. 

Again, several questions loom largely. Who are these people? What are they looking for? What compels them to get out of bed, stop searching the web and virtually visit Church of the Apostles? Why do they listen to me calling people to “Repent, turn around, put their heads in the wilderness of their hearts?”

Why do they return week after week to hear me prod them to let their lives look like the life of the itinerant preacher, teacher, healer Jesus who challenges the status quo keepers of institution and empire while treating every stranger, foreigner, leper, sinner and thief with dignity and kindness?

I cannot answer any of these questions but I will speculate. Although it is unlikely the Facebook Live worshippers are looking to be baptized I believe there is every chance they are showing up because they are long for a new way of live, a way that is loving and liberating, a way that affirms the dignity and worth of all human beings. I believe the unidentified folks showing up for virtual worship are looking for a beloved community in which everyone has a place at the table and everyone is interested in the well being of all. 

So Welcome! Welcome! Welcome! This is the Way of Jesus, the way that welcomes every color of the rainbow, refugees and asylum seekers, wealthy and impoverished, conservative and progressive, partisan and independent because the Way of Jesus is deeper than any difference. The Way of Jesus strives for “justice and peace among all people and respects the dignity of every human being.” This is the baptism by “the Holy Spirit and fire,” about which John is speaking because it demands nothing less than transforming ourselves into One Loving Community in which we really do respect and dignify ALL people, and that is radical change.  So Welcome! Welcome! Welcome!

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Friday, December 3, 2021

 Luke 3:1-6        In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,

"The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:

'Prepare the way of the Lord,

make his paths straight.

Every valley shall be filled,

and every mountain and hill shall be made low,

and the crooked shall be made straight,

and the rough ways made smooth;

and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'"

Reflection        Political and religious power pyramids have plagued humanity since long before the “ fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius” when God’s word did not come to Tiberius, one of Rome’s greatest generals. God’s word did not come to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea who served under Tiberius. God’s word did not come Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee. God’s word did not come to Herod’s brother Philip.  God’s word did not come to Lysanias, ruler of the slopes of Mount Hermon.  Neither did God’s word come to the high priests Annas and Caiaphas nor to anyone else with power and privilege in government or the temple. 

As we read in Luke’s text, the word of God comes to John, the son of Zechariah, an itinerant prophet who lives in the wilderness; a sticky bearded eccentric calling for apocalyptic change. The word of God comes to John who pretty much has nothing at all… except bad breath, an empty belly and the word of God. How can this be?

Skipping ahead three chapters in Luke’s text we meet John's cousin Jesus who just spent the night praying on a mountaintop and choosing his twelve disciples. He is coming down to a flat place, a plain, where he heals the crowds of their afflictions and launches into his famous sermon of blessings and woes;

 ‘Blessed are you who are hungry now,

   for you will be filled.

‘Blessed are you who weep now,

   for you will laugh.

 ‘Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.…

‘But woe to you who are rich,

   for you have received your consolation. 

‘Woe to you who are full now,

   for you will be hungry.

‘Woe to you who are laughing now,

   for you will mourn and weep.

 ‘Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did

   to the false prophets.” (Luke 6.21-26)

According to Jesus being blessed, which is to say,  experiencing our “with God life,” does not depend on position, power and privilege. When it comes to life with God, apparently less is more. Perhaps this is why the word of God comes to John in the wilderness. The wilderness is a place of unadorned wandering and perplexing wondering, a place where we set aside our stature and distinction to eat bugs, listen to trees, talk to birds and grasp our rootedness in creation. Once disentangled from religious and political power pyramids we begin to be informed by wisdom, the living word of God with us.

John, the son of Zachariah whom we also know as John the Baptist, consents to his place in the mystery of the wilderness rather than turning toward the Roman baths or columned temple halls. Is it not interesting, people from all over the region around the Jordan river  clamor to hear this crusty bearded holy hippie “Crying out in the wilderness. Repent! Prepare the way of the Lord…” Don’t you want to shout right back, “Tell me how?”

I believe if John was here he would answer, “Take your heads out of the temple walls and government halls and put them in the wilderness of your hearts.” Do not be daunted by the mantle of power. Do not put your faith in emperors and presidents, governors and majority leaders, rulers and minority leaders, bishops, priests or anyone else. None of them can and none of them will mediate your relationship with God. 

So, repent! Turn around. Put your head in the wilderness of your heart. Stop looking for truth in the mouths of political and religious authorities. The wisdom word of God arises in the mysterious wilderness of our hearts, so, put your heads in the wilderness of your hearts. Listen to trees, talk to birds, smell the air and walk in the night forrest confident that God is with you. 

Since long before the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius the word of God has challenged humanity to stretch beyond our hierarchical apprehension of the world, experience our rootedness in creation and taste the words of wisdom rising in the  wilderness of our hearts.

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paint  image of garden with head planted in the middle