God’s Christmas Joy

December 29th, 2019 Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Christmas is a time of great joy. Joy runs through the whole season. Mary joyfully sings God’s praise when she visits Elizabeth, angels bring the shepherds “news of great joy which will be to all the people” and one of our Christmas carols begins, “Joy to the world. The Lord has come!”

But doesn’t it seem strange that we seldom talk about God’s joy? Yet if God so loved us as to send us the Second Person of the Trinity in order to share his divinity with us and save us, it seems only right to believe that the Three-Person God is filled with great joy and deep satisfaction as they see their desire and plan for us and our world begin to unfold in time. So, if heaven and earth and shepherds and angels rejoice, wouldn’t God?

Perhaps we feel that such language makes God too much like us. But we believe that God made us in his own image. So it seems clear that we are not mistaken if we think that our own Christmas joy comes from and shares in the deep joy that fills the heart of God.

Bethlehem

December 25th, 2019 Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

At the Christmas season, the old saying that All Roads Lead to Rome must, for believers, change to All Roads Lead to Bethlehem. For, though Rome displayed the power and authority of an empire, Bethlehem reveals the deeper majesty and power of God’s love in being born as a baby.

Because God chose to come in such a manner, God makes himself available not just to the powerful of the world, but to simple shepherds. It is they who are not just told about the coming of Jesus but are invited to see it for themselves and bring the news to others.

Bethlehem reveals God’s deep desire, born out of love for us, to be one of us. It also reveals to us that God wishes to share his own life with us by being human.

So this season you might want to take some time to visit a crib scene in your local church or in your home And ask yourself what you are really seeing and what Bethlehem this year is teaching you.

Words of Welcome

December 14th, 2019 Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

“Mi casa es su casa!” I think these five words (“My house is your house!”) express a welcome more generous and warm than the simple word “Welcome!” ever could.

I like to think that the time of Advent is a time for us to choose what words we might use to greet the Son of God, whose coming we celebrate at Christmas. Does his arrival elicit from us more than a simple “welcome”? Doesn’t it instead call from us words and feelings of a more heartfelt and generous kind? Doesn’t the coming of Jesus deserve that we welcome him into the very heart of the world where we live (our “casa”)?

And how will we know if we are offering him an appropriate welcome? The answer is simple, for Jesus told us that he will regard our welcome and treatment of others as being done to him. The sharing of our home, our casa, with them is the way we welcome him. And if we are generous and welcoming to them, Jesus will be similarly be generous and welcoming to us. And his casa will become ours.

Naming the Story

September 19th, 2019 Posted in writing | No Comments »

One of the most familiar stories in the Bible is the Parable of the Good Samaritan. But we could also name it the Parable of the Beaten Traveler, the Tale of the Two Men Who Kept Walking or, finally, the Story of the Person Who Cared. Depending on the person or persons we center on, the story’s focus changes and gives us different things to think about.

For instance, if we call it the Parable of the Beaten Traveler, we might ask if we have ever been in a situation similar to his. We probably have been if we’ve ever found ourselves victimized, attacked physically, verbally, psychologically, or mentally and left lying at the side of the road, bruised and hurt and just wishing someone would come along to help us.

If we name the story the Tale of the Two Men Who Kept Walking, then we might ask if we have passed people by, either because we simply don’t see them lying along our way or because we choose not to find out who they are, how they got there or how we might be able to help them. Perhaps, if we do see them, we may feel some pity but think that we don’t have time for reaching out or that maybe they’re pulling a scam to get money.

Lastly, we can continue to call the story the Parable of the Good Samaritan, remembering that Jesus’ audience might have been surprised that a Samaritan would be capable of doing anything good, selfless or compassionate. The Jewish listeners of the day might have expected that the priest and Levite who passed by would have stopped to help the man. But those two ignored him, while the Samaritan went out of his way to tend to the man and even pay for his care at an inn. Have we ever gone out of our way to help someone who is not part of our family, neighborhood, ethnic or racial group?

Of the three names we could give this story, which grabs our attention most, and which part do we most frequently find ourselves playing?

Easter Surpri#😱♥️♥️♥️

June 2nd, 2019 Posted in writing | No Comments »

These days Christians start to wrap up the Easter season. We probably can’t imagine a year without Easter. But if we can imagine a world in which there were no Easter, we might get a glimpse of how remarkable, even earth-shaking the first Easter must have been. I’ve been thinking about two surprises from that first Easter and how they have changed how we can look at life and our understanding of God.

The first change began with Mary Magdalene’s report that she had gone to the place where Jesus had been buried, found the tomb empty AND had seen him alive and talked with him. The disciples likely tried to convince her that she must have imagined it, for when someone had died with all the pain and agony Jesus did, that person was going to stay dead. No one would have expected anything else. But then, that evening, Jesus himself appeared to the disciples and spoke to them. That must have been an incredible surprise, and the gospel writers said the disciples were filled with joy.

But perhaps seeing him alive wasn’t joy all the way through, for what would Jesus say to all those followers who had run away at his arrest? They had disowned him, so, why wouldn’t he disown them for their disloyalty and cowardice?

That was the second surprise. Jesus spoke only words of peace, not condemnation, breathed his very own spirit (the Holy Spirit) over them and into them and asked them to continue his work of spreading the good news of reconciliation and forgiveness. Rather than condemning them, Jesus was drawing the disciples more closely to himself — and never once did he demand from them a word of explanation or an apology for their behavior. Instead, Jesus showed them they had not forfeited his love. That surely would have remade the disciples’ understanding of God’s justice and the reality and power of his forgiveness.

The disciples would have fifty days between Easter and Pentecost to begin to get used to the meaning and implication of their experience of the first Easter, and the gospel writers say that during those days there were times when they and Jesus spent time with each other. And two millennia since that first Easter, we as individuals and as a church still work to deepen our understanding of what it means that Jesus is truly Risen and alive and that, no matter what disloyalty or lack of faith may mark our lives, nothing can separate us from his love.(Romans, chapter 8)