So there’s the physical, and there’s the spiritual.
The Israelites were in the desert. They were thirsty. Physically thirsty. And God met them there and provided water, miraculous water, water gushing out of a rock.
Jesus was by the well at noon, in the heat of the day. He was thirsty. Physically thirsty. And God met him there in the form of a woman, a Samaritan woman, and provided water, not miraculous water but very ordinary water, gushing out of a well dug so long ago by Jacob, the common ancestor of Jews and Samaritans alike. (more…)
During this last week, I spent a significant amount of time researching a financial product so I could assist my younger brother with an important decision he will need to make in the next few months. My brother is about to become 62 years old, and since I am seven years older than him, our thoughts have been turning more and more as to how we might best prepare for the future as neither of us has children or a spouse to care for us. My brother is generally capable and can manage his household. However, when complicated decisions are involved, he often turns to me for assistance. As the dutiful older sister, I take these requests seriously because my mother always told me to look out for him and to take care of him. By the way parents, I understand what you are hoping when you ask older siblings to take care of younger ones. You are encouraging them to look out for each other. However, it would be great if you could put an end date on the request. After all it was one thing to look after my brother when he was twelve or before he turned twenty-one. He’s sixty-two now and honestly someone as hyper-responsible as me can struggle with this request as most grown folk won’t do as you say just because you told them to do it. (more…)
The sun the source of our life on earth is a rather small star in the universe. But it is huge compared to the earth. You could fit more than 1 million earths into the sun if it were hollow. 1 million. And, every second the sun is turning 4 million tons of its solar self, its solar material, its mass into energy—light. It generates that light and gives it away, you could say. The material it transforms into light is not replaced; the sun is transforming itself and giving itself away. We are circling around what we could call solar generosity—and sacrifice. Everything you’ve ever done is what we could call a solar event—the result of solar sacrifice and generosity. (more…)
“The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom then shall I fear?”
Indeed, whom shall I fear? Whom do I fear? Whom or what do you fear? The Bible is filled with talk about fear, mostly with admonitions to fear not! Remember the angel Gabriel to Mary, “Fear not, the Lord is with you.” Angels are very much into “Fear not!”
But of course, if truth be told we do fear. I read recently that 40% of Americans suffer from anxiety—ranging from panic attacks to other forms of anxious living. Look around this church and think about that. 40% of us are living with anxiety. (more…)
Somewhere in my house, there is a button I got a few years ago that says, “Jesus loves you, but I’m his favorite.” I thought of that button when I read today’s Gospel lesson. As a young girl, I longed to be unique, to be noticed for who I was, and to know that I had God’s blessing. Whenever I heard the account of the Baptism of Our Lord, I could not help but wonder what it would be like for a ray of light to come from the heavens and for a voice to say, “This is my child, the beloved, in whom I am well pleased.” What would it take, I thought, to be the kind of person that God would think was an exceptional being? (more…)
They brought him gifts, these magi; these wise men, mages, learned ones from the East. They came to find a king, and the one who was already king was not amused. He sent them on to Bethlehem, Herod, that fox, that sly wielder of power, plying them with smooth words even as his soldiers sharpened their swords for what was to come.
They brought him gifts, these sages, these Iranian seers, these Zoroastrian seekers of God. They followed a light from heaven, and they came to a humble house. And they opened their chests and brought forth their treasures, rich gifts laden with hope and expectation: Gold. Incense. Myrrh. (more…)
When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. (Luke 21:28 KJV)
I got a kite for my birthday. I love kites, the way they ascend into the heavens transcending the force of gravity, up, up and away. We took my new kite to Bodega Head where there was a fresh breeze from the sea and it flew up into the air. What exhilaration! So the song that concludes Mary Poppins speaks to me. It’s a song of joy or redemption, a song of resurrection. The Banks family had been going down hill, while George Banks devoted his full attention to the bank where he worked and neglected his family. But when he lost his job it was a blessing in disguise; he had time to fix the kite which was broken and to take his family out to the park as he sang:
Oh, oh, oh! Let’s go fly a kite up to the highest height!
Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear. Oh, let’s go fly a kite!(more…)
There’s something very human about buyer’s remorse.
In a few weeks we’ll be seeing that up close as the return lines get long after Christmas. Although less and less in retail stores and more and more in post offices and UPS Stores. A few months ago I made an Amazon return and discovered for the first time that I didn’t even have to box up my item—just to bring it to the UPS Store and they would box it up for me. Companies are realizing that making their return policies easier actually makes them more money, as customers get more likely to buy in the first place. Buyer’s remorse is all part of the business plan. (more…)
It was about fifteen minutes before the end of my shift as hospital chaplain on call when I was paged to the cardiac catheterization lab.
I’d never been to the cath lab before. It’s not a place chaplains usually have a reason to visit. Patients usually go there for a procedure, then go home, or back to their inpatient beds. As I answered the page I could hear the shock in the nurse’s voice as she told me what had happened. A man in his fifties—let’s call him James—had come in for a test. Things seemed to be going routinely, until they weren’t. Without any warning, his heart stopped. The team performed CPR, but despite their frantic efforts, James died there on the table. (more…)
That’s what Jesus hears over and over as he hangs there. “If you are the King of the Jews, come down!” “If you are the chosen one, save yourself!” “If you are the Messiah, save yourself and us!”
And it’s as if his story has come full circle, back to the beginning, after his baptism when he went out into the desert and faced his first test, when Satan tempted him with almost the very same words. “If you are the Son of God. . . .” Turn these stones into bread, to feed your hunger. Bow down to me, and become king of the world. Leap from the temple, and test the Lord your God.
In the beginning just as in the end, the temptation is the same. To misuse his power. To turn his divine authority to his own ends. (more…)
There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. Luke 21:11
We live in apocalyptic times. Let me explain what “apocalyptic” means. It is the opposite of the words of the song: “Don’t worry; be happy.”
Here’s a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note.
Don’t worry, be happy
In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double. Don’t worry, be happy
But we do worry because we are threatened by the coming of “the Four horsemen of the apocalypse,” which are disease and war, famine and death. the gospels list the signs of tribulation as “great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.”(more…)
It’s very human to want to escape mortality. To cheat the Reaper and live forever.
Sometimes quite literally. Maybe you’re familiar with the movement called cryonics in which people have their bodies frozen in hopes future technology will be able to bring them back to life one day. On the other end of the timeline, there are some biotech folks in Silicon Valley who are hoping to extend human lifespans to the point of never dying in the first place, at least not from old age. Now as Christians we might say that there’s a difference between endless life and eternal life. A life that’s just chronologically endless, and where you’re continually afraid of dying in an accident, might turn out to be a nightmare instead of a dream. (more…)
This past Thursday I was unpacking my car when I found myself drawn into the stories of the saints.
What my car was full of was, essentially, Incarnation’s go-bag. In the midst of the evacuations, several of us packed up sacred items, vestments, chalices, and historic records into our cars for safekeeping. For four days my car was filled to the top with boxes of service registers and parish archives, along with our jeweled brass processional cross, removed from its staff, safely cushioned in Abigail’s car seat.
We packed those items up in a hurry. But on Thursday, during the unloading, I couldn’t help but leaf through some of the old records. And there they were: names and narratives of the great cloud of witnesses whose prayers have soaked into these wooden walls around us for nearly a century and a half. (more…)