Friday, December 15, 2017

Advent 3 B - John 1:6-8, 19-28

John 1:6-8, 19-28
Not the Messiah, not Elijah, not the prophet (Jeremiah not Mohamed) John is just a voice that makes straight the way for someone else. Of course that someone else is the Messiah pointed to by Elijah and the promises God made to Abraham and confirmed through the prophet. So called prophets in our day and age are always pointing to this or that but most often proclaim themselves and make a pretty good living at it. But John in his camel hair cloak (not cashmere) eating locusts and honey, baptizing with water, knows he is the prologue to a greater story that we find out later even he doesn’t fully understand. "Are you the one or shall we look for another?" (Matthew 11:3) That is good news for those of us who stand in John’s shadow and point to the one we are unworthy to speak for or about. In the light of that thought I suppose I would be more likely to remain silent except that the sandals John felt unworthy to untie were not ashamed to walk the earth we tread and in the end were removed so that feet nailed to wood might reveal the true nature of God.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Advent 3 B - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
I don’t know about you but there are very few things I do that can be followed by “always” or “unceasing” or “in all circumstances”; except sin, of course, but maybe that doesn’t count because it comes so naturally. I’m actually a little suspicious of those who claim to live this text and that behind all the smiles and the God is so good alleluias are lives of utter desperation wrapped in praise the Lord pastels. (BTW this is not an autobiographical post. I look best in Advent blue.) Rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. Really? Isn’t that called denial? There are times when the most faithful response is a lament that curses the darkness. Which is why God’s will cannot be that we manage this on our own but rather depend fully on the One who sanctifies and keeps us sound in every and all circumstances. So rejoicing can happen even when we have every reason to weep and giving thanks can take place even when we have every reason to lament and prayers can happen always because the “Spirit intercedes for us with groans words cannot express.” (Romans 8:26) Not denial but acceptance that even in the worst of times the promise of God to be present is more than enough reason to give thanks.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Advent 3 B - Psalm 126

Psalm 126
The first four verses of Psalm 126 remember the dream come true as exiles returned home and mouths were filled with laughter and tongues tingled with joy. When the memory of the moment is recounted the psalmist is glad indeed. But apparently those fortunes have been spent and in the same way that the dry wadis of the Negev wait for the spring rain the psalmist asks that the past be repeated in the present. Restore our fortunes like the watercourses of the Negev so that tears sown in sorrow will reap songs of joy. Faith remembers the joy of the past in order to endure the pain of the present by hoping in the promise of the future. You might be in a time of waiting and if so need to remember the times when rejoicing came easily and if you cannot perhaps there is someone who can do it for you. Which is why if you are so gifted as to be in a laughter, tongue tingling time of being glad indeed, give thanks to the Lord and do what you can to share your sheaves of joy with those who weep.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Advent 3 B - Isaiah 61:1-11

Isaiah 61:1-11
Isaiah 61 is the measure of whether one has been anointed by the spirit of the Lord or not. Good news for the oppressed not narrow views that suppress life and love; healing words that bind up the broken hearted not harsh speech that hurts; liberating words that free one from the fear that God is not ultimately and completely “for us.”  It does not mean there are no words of correction or constraint. Just the opposite. Right behavior flows from right relationship and right relationship flows from unconditional love. Or as Jesus said, “Perfect love casts out all fear” When we live more fully into the unconditional love of God we are less likely to withhold love from others or ourselves which may actually be the harder of the two. The brokenhearted healed, the ones who mourn comforted, the faint of spirit made strong, are all signs of the Spirit whose speech blesses the world with light and love and liberty so that the good news for the oppressed is just as good for the oppressor.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Advent 2 B - Mark 1:1-8

Mark 1:1-8
The beginning of Jesus’ story anticipates the end of our story which (because of Jesus) will not be as final as it otherwise might have been. And like the messenger who prepared Jesus’ way through the wilderness Jesus makes straight our crooked paths so that shouts of victory will drown out cries of lament. But the end of the salvation story does not deny the hard path walked by John or Jesus. Both paid dearly for their proclamation of the truth and while resurrection is certainly a happy ending to what would have otherwise been a tragic tale the marks of suffering remain to remind us that it was the baptism of Jesus' death that forgave our sin. So we, who benefit from John’s prophecy and baptized by the Holy Spirit are joined to Jesus’ death, walk on paths that are sometimes as hard and as unyielding as the ones they walked but because the Good News has walked all the world’s paths we never walk them alone.