Drinking from the Well

Order of Worship for this reflection can be found here: Bulletin-03-12-2023 L3 YA

Scripture: John 4:5-42

Let us pray:

Living Water; fill our thirsty souls. In the divine silence of our souls, help us, O Spirit Wisdom, to discern the calling of our Lord’s voice, that, with you, we may follow and do God’s will.  Amen.

The story of the woman at the well, found nowhere else in the Scriptures, is a compelling story on several levels.  Last week during Godly Play I mentioned six sacred stories during Lent. This year, four of them are from the Gospel of John; the disciple in Celtic Memory that lay against Jesus at the last supper and realized he was hearing the very heartbeat of God.  With that in mind, I find it easier to understand why in today’s passage alone, there are layers upon layers of thematic meanings:

“Water, living water, thirst, well of life. Food, the kind needed to make it through the day, and the food Jesus has that the disciples don’t know about. The relationship [history] between Jerusalem Jews and Jews from Samaria. The boundaries between men and women [of that time] and the many boundaries Jesus disregards. Jesus’ identity as the Messiah … who recognizes him, and who doesn’t. The disciples’ obtuseness and the woman’s perception. The role of experience and testimony in conversion and belief. Worship, where it happens and who is involved in it.”[1]

While there is no specific mention of “Jacob’s Well” by name in the Hebrew Scriptures of the Old Testament, we do have one possible passage to go by: Gen. 35:1 reads:

“God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Beth’El, and settle there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.”

Jacob does what God requests, and settles in this region of Bethel, which later becomes Samaria. Here, many generations later, Jesus sits and asks a distant estranged relative for water, beginning one of the richest New Testament stories recorded.  Here are a few salient points:

  • The woman knows she and her community are descendants of Jacob.
  • When Jesus and the woman have their conversation, Samaria is ostracized by the rest of Israel, even though they have a common ancestor in Abraham. Meaning, this becomes a ministry of reconciliation “within the family.”  Even more so when we realize that the woman (“…our ancestor, Jacob who gave us this well…” 4:12) and Jesus are both descended from Jacob although through different offspring (See Matthew for the genealogy of Jesus), which makes them very distant cousins.
  • There is evidence in the story that the woman has a deep awareness of the true message of Christ, even from their one brief conversation.
  • She knows the current religious issues brought up by their conversation regarding priestly-political odds between Samaria and Israel with regards to worship, truth, and common hope in the Messiah.
  • At the time of this story, it has been postulated that cultural expectations meant women went to the well in the early morning or in the evening, so we could interpret she has felt alienation from her own community, else why come to the well in the middle of the day by herself?
  • She is so changed by the conversation with Jesus that she leaves her water jar by the well (4:28) to go and spread the news: “Come see a man who told me everything I ever did, He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” (4:29) If that is not in and of itself evidence that she no longer “thirsts” but has drunk deeply from the Spring of Living Water, than what is?
  • Changed from her brokenness and alienation, she becomes the first evangelist for Christ, bringing her whole community to Jesus at the well and leading them to find belief… “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” (4:42)
  • This message of reconciliation between the woman and her community is a metaphor for Samaria and the rest of Israel, yet it is also a foretaste of the entire message of Christ to the world: “if you knew who it was that asked you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”(4:10)
  • The first time Jesus ever freely admits that he is the Messiah takes place here, in the broken and ostracized region of Israel called Samaria, as he declares openly who he is using the name God gave Moses at the burning bush: “I am he, the one you are speaking to.” (4:26)

These points are just dipping the surface of the rich cool waters of the pool in this story. Do you wish to drink of the Water of Life?  Let this story be an invitation to dip with your cup below the surface and drink deeply.

What would that look like for you?  Within what dryness do you find yourself living now?  Personally?  Corporately?  Changing one’s life to make room for life-giving water may cause some rocking of the boat, but wouldn’t that be preferred to an endless pattern of repeatedly coming to the well in the scorching heat of day on your own?

Come, Lord Jesus!  We are a divided and hurting world, in your mercy, forgive us our divisions; and, by drinking deeply of your Living Water, let us work for peace and be made one in you.  May we find in our desert of transition a deep wellspring, filling us up with the water of life.  And, may we learn to pour it out in service, that others may, too be filled.  In so doing, let all glory be unto the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ.  Amen?  May it be so.

[1] Duffield, Jill.  “Reflection on the Lectionary” weekly post from Presbyterian Outlook

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Waiting and Wondering-Remake

Order of Worship bulletin for this Godly Play adaptation: Bulletin-03-05-2023 L2 YA

Scripture: John 3:1-17

Let us pray:

Teach us something today, O God. In Christ we pray, Amen.

Part I: Learning about Lent: First Sunday of Lent (Adapted from Lesson 31, Young Children and Worship[1])

Feel the story forming in you. Patting the basket next to you, say:

I wonder what’s inside this today. There are certainly a lot of colors in it.

Lay out the story quilt. This is my story quilt. Each piece of fabric has a story. My story quilt helps me remember stories from my life – and reminds me to tell stories from our faith. Today we are going to learn a sacred story.

Lay out the gold cloth. Gold? Isn’t this a color from Christmas and the story of Jesus’ birth? What other colors from the season of Christmas do you remember?

Lay out the purple cloth. Purple is a color from Advent, when we are getting ready for Christmas and Jesus’ birth. But it isn’t Advent or Christmas right now.

Sit back and wonder for a minute. Pull out the purple bag of puzzle pieces. I wonder what this could be? Oh, look, it has something in it. One…Two…Three…Four…Five…Six purple pieces.

Sit back and wonder again. Today is the [Second] Sunday in Lent.  During Lent, the church changes from the color green to the color purple.

Touch the purple cloth, bag, and pieces. Lent is the time the church gets ready to celebrate the mystery of Easter. There are six Sundays for getting ready.

Touch the six pieces again. I wonder if these six pieces can tell us what Lent is about?

Put pieces together to form the cross. Hmmm, they form a cross. I wonder if there are stories to go with each piece?


Part II: The Story of Nicodemus, Second Sunday of Lent

Look in the basket. Ah, yes, there is something else in here.

Pull out the table and two chairs; place them on the cross. Here is a story for Lent.

Pull out the two figures. Designate the younger one Jesus and the older one Nicodemus. Act out and tell the story.

            1Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, [which means ‘teacher’ in Hebrew] we know [you have] come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3Jesus answered him, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, no one can see the [realm] of God without being born from above.” 4Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5Jesus answered, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, no one can enter the realm of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?

11Verily, verily, I say unto you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

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. 17“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

Begin with “I wonder” questions, moving to the Art of Asking Questions categories (Informational, Analytical, Personal), putting story pieces away gradually:

Pick up Nicodemus. I wonder why Nicodemus came at night? Pick up Jesus. I wonder where Jesus was when he came? I wonder why Nicodemus is old and Jesus is young? I wonder who was more surprised at this meaning, Jesus or Nicodemus? I wonder if Nicodemus knew the faith he taught and knew was changing?

I wonder what people look like who have been born twice?

In your opinion, if Jesus and Nicodemus were both symbols for something else, (Put figures away), what would they be?

I wonder where you might be in this story? How do you know if you have been born twice?

Pick up table and chairs. Colors, pictures, and things, as well as stories, help us remember things. What about this story do you want to remember? Put them away.

I wonder what your grown-ups (friends, neighbors) want to remember. Why don’t you go and share with them what you want to remember and ask them what they want to remember? Then we will all pray together.

Put the rest of the materials away.


Let us pray: We have heard the story read, and seen the story played. Help us to learn what it is you want us to remember; and how to apply it to our lives. Amen.

[1] Sonja M. Stewart and Jerome W. Berryman, Young Children and Worship (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1989), 176.

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Putting on a Transitional Lens

Order of Worship for the following reflection: Bulletin-TL 02-26-2023 YA L1

Scriptures: Psalm 32, Matthew 4:1-11

Let us pray:

God of Springtime, let your Holy Spirit breathe insight and understanding into these ancient texts for our contemporary time. Amen.

         Today’s passage from the Gospel of Matthew sets us up for examining the ministry of Christ for the Sunday of Lent. Some commentators view this passage of temptation as preparation before the public ministry of Jesus is launched.  For much of the rest of the season of Lent, we will be dipping into the Gospel of John.  There are some interesting differences in how John’s crafting of how to understand the ministry of Jesus and how Matthew catalogs it.  Just to tempt you a bit, I will attempt to do a little comparison over the next several weeks of Lent between the two. The reason being, the authors of the Gospels of Matthew and John wrote during incredible shifts – transitions, if you will, in the lives of faithful followers of Christ. Studying them carefully, perhaps there are some lessons for where you are in your own life and ministry together in this moment.

First, let’s deal with the Tempter. I suspect many of you are familiar with this character in Matthew’s Gospel.  Or, perhaps, you are more familiar with the anthropomorphic tendencies some versions of Christianity have placed upon this character over the centuries. Or, perhaps you are more familiar with how the film industry has taken these characterizations and birthed evil incarnate in a villain of some sort.  The unfortunate tradition in our Revised Common Lectionary to elide Matthew’s passage with the Genesis passage of the crafty snake simply re-emphasizes this.  Today I would like to question this convention – and question why this story is so often called the temptation of Jesus, when clearly at this moment, Jesus shows only minimal temptation, easily “passing the test,” so-to-speak, with his rebuttals.  Commentator Douglas John Hall observes,

“We miss the point…when we consider this text only from the perspective of its characterization of Jesus and his mission. It is also … a statement about the church. [Jesus] resisted these temptations; the church, however, has rarely been able to do so. Indeed too often…the church has succumbed.”[1]

To what, you may ask?  Simply put, in one sense or another, to seizing and holding power over something or someone. To becoming, as the crafty serpent says, “like God.” Does this passage in Matthew actually embody a deceiver?  Is there an Opposite Evil Incarnation or possession, as many Hollywood films like to paint? Or is this an internal fight between the dual natures of humanity and divinity embodied in Jesus?  Which are also, I would suggest, embodied in each of us. Let me reposition the lens just a bit. Astute biblical scholar and contemporary cultural observer Maryetta Anschutz writes,

“There is something captivating about seeing evil incarnate on the big screen, in the pages of a novel, or in the names of those said by a nation to pose political threats. It is only human to feel the need to see evil anthropomorphized, to name, visualize, vilify, and separate us from “it” in order to engage “it” as an opponent in battle. This is true in sacred texts as well. Evil tests Eve and Aaron, the great high priest, Job and King David, Jesus and his disciples. Over and over again, in order to live a life that chooses God, a faithful person must face the choice of acting outside of God. It is easier to make that choice if we can put a face on temptation.”[2]

In a summary of author C.S. Lewis’s theological perspective in The Screwtape Letters, she again observes that temptations, personified in the characters Uncle Screwtape and understudy Wormwood, try to,

“Create a generation of people who are defined by selfishness and insincerity, pettiness and pride, fear and a need to control the things of this world.”[3]

She goes on to write,

“This is true of our own temptations. Most of us cannot imagine the devil offering bread after a forty–day fast. We do not know the fear of being held over the ledge at the top of the Empire State Building. We certainly do not know the temptation of being offered all the power in the world. Each one of us, however, understands the temptations Screwtape and Wormwood offer: pride, vanity, selfishness, and apathy.”[4]

This also happens at the corporate level of church and society. Who are we and what is our standing in this community? How might we leverage our past and future with the temptation of what we most might gain? Or perhaps, a more simple yet just as tempting – we just want it to be the way it was, the way we remember it when we loved it best? How can we get there?  It is tempting to want to hold on and grasp that which is most familiar in the face of changes and challenges of the unfamiliar, isn’t it?  Yet every Christian Community can benefit most by asking: What is our mission?  What is our purpose?  Is it to service others and the community in which we sit or to serve ourselves?  How do we offer God to the world that needs an encounter with the Living Christ?  What does it take for us to feed the deep inner hunger people of all ages need as they grow in mind, body, and spirit into who they will become as Christ’s disciples in the world?  Traditionally,

“Lenten penitence engages the dark places in our lives that we may come face to face with them, name them, understand them, and seek forgiveness for them. [But it] is not about guilt. It is about freedom from the control that our fears and insecurities have over us all, about the amendment of life and new beginnings.”[5]

Spring is bursting around us, God’s gift of Earth’s visual cycle of birth, death, and resurrection that is the true meaning of Lent.  Peering through the lens of Springtime emerging, can you apply the vision you have adopted as a Matthew 25 church and see spiritual renewal, congregational renewal, outward mission, and a deepened faith for all?

May all glory be unto the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen?  May it be so.

[1] Douglas John Hall “Theological Perspective, Matthew 4:1-11” in Feasting on the Word, Year A (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010).

[2] Maryetta Anschutz, “Pastoral Perspective, Matthew 4:1-11” in Feasting on the Word, Year A (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010).

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

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Pitching a Tent Among Us

Traditional Order of Worship to accompany this reflection: Bulletin-02-19-2023 Transfiguration YA

Let us pray:

Holy One, may the words that I craft and the thoughts and feelings they engender honor you.  May your Holy Spirit intervene if needed, ensuring the message you wish to be known despite my attempt to witness.  Amen.

I used to love to pitch a tent on the ground; unroll my sleeping bag on a mat and listen to the silence of the wilderness seep into my soul, de-cluttering my life. On the occasions that I used to spend the night up in Trout Lake, I’d open the window at night, listening to the silence and the stars. In those times I was reminded to slow down and appreciate life’s pace at a different speed. As we prepare to enter into the Lenten season, it is a good opportunity to slow down and appreciate life at a different speed.  Have you noticed how spring is unfolding, even in the midst of the cold-those daffodils beginning to reach their tender green shoots to the sky – and even some of them with buds already forming on the end.  Look, listen, observe; in opening your eyes to the mystery and rhythm of the earth’s seasons, we also open to God’s beauty.  Who knows what you might see?

Today’s scripture is a story of opening eyes and seeing more than what is ordinary.  Three disciples saw something extra-ordinary when Jesus took Peter, James, and John up the mountain.  I wonder, did Jesus know that God, Moses, and Elijah would meet with him on a certain date; and that it would be instructive for Peter, James, and John to witness it?

What is the true story here? How are we to interpret it? What is our response, in faith, supposed to guide us into doing? One commentator wisely writes:

[The] moment of transfiguration … affirms Jesus’ divinity…[allowing] the disciples to see God’s light in the chaos to come: death, loss, fear and resurrection, the work of the early church. The challenge to the disciples is to live in a world without Jesus’ bodily presence.[1]

Another reason to consider this passage is for the enduring image of clarity of thinking found in mountain top experiences. C.S. Lewis writes, in Aslan’s voice in the fourth book of the Chronicles of Narnia,

Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly. I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearance. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters.[2]

Put another way,

God prepares people in the transcendent encounters of our lives to endure [a] world that has the ability to break us and yet is never beyond God’s redemption. These encounters happen on mountaintops with a blinding light for some. For most, they happen in the ordinary moments of our classrooms, boardrooms, and soup kitchens—any place where we make a space for the Holy to be present.[3]

Which I suspect is precisely why Matthew chose to frame his account of the transfiguration event the way he did.

When Matthew preaches the transfiguration, he addresses a congregation for whom Moses is a compelling interpretative template. Matthew’s sermon is Moses–shaped and the mount of the transfiguration echoes Sinai. … just as Moses receives the law on Mount Sinai, Jesus teaches the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matt. 5–7). Moses interprets the commandments of God in Deuteronomy, [so] Jesus interprets the commandments [when he says,] “You have heard that it was said” (Matt. 5:21, 27, 33, 38, 43, etc.). … when Matthew preaches the transfiguration, he intensifies the Moses theme in order to preach Christ.

(…) The genius of Matthew’s preaching, however, centers on the way in verse 6 he echoes the terror and dismay of the Israelites who hear the voice of God (Exod. 20:18) and cry out, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die” (Exod. 20:19). The glorious presence and commanding voice of the Holy One of Israel threatens to overwhelm those who encounter them, but to the disciples overwhelmed by the presence and voice of God, Jesus reaches out his hand, touches them, and reassures them: “Do not be afraid” (v. 7).[4]

This is the way that God comes into the world: not simply the brilliant cloud of mystery, not only a voice thundering from heaven, but also a human hand laid upon a shoulder and the words, “Do not be afraid.” God comes to us quietly, gently, that we may draw near and not be afraid. God’s glory is majestic and (yet) so far beyond our capacity to receive it that we can (only) take just as much of God’s glory as a human hand can hold (emphasis added).[5]

What can we take from this story today? The transfiguration is a vision of God coming to earth and pitching a tent among us – a holy reminder as we enter into Lent that Christ, Emmanuel, is God enfleshed, having become one of us that we might learn how to live Christlike lives on this earth and for the sake of others.

May all glory be unto the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen?  May it be so.

[1] Maryetta Madeeine Anshutz, “Pastoral Perspective, Matthew 17:1-9” in Feasting on the Word – Year A, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010).

[2] C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair (New York: Harper Collins, 1981) 25-26.

[3] Maryetta Madeeine Anshutz, “Pastoral Perspective, Matthew 17:1-9” in Feasting on the Word.

[4] Patrick J. Wilson, “Homiletical Perspective, Matthew 17:1-9” in Feasting on the Word – Year A, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010).

[5] Ibid.

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Tough Teachings

Traditional Order of Worship format for this reflection can be found here: Bulletin-02-12-2023 E6 YA

Scripture: Matthew 5:21-37

Let us pray:

In the divine silence of our souls, help us, O Spirit Wisdom, to discern the calling of our Lord’s voice, that, with you, we may follow and do God’s will.  Amen.

Matthew has recorded some difficult teachings here, teachings that Jesus wanted to communicate for a reason. The first six verses of our pericope today, 21-26, point to the need to reconcile with one another. There are warnings given that highlight how discord, anger, insults, and name calling lead toward destruction of relationships between people. The bottom line is all of these negatives eat away at the foundation of lives built on love; and if such deterioration progresses, it has the potential to eventually destroy love itself. Learning how to reconcile is the antidote.

What kind of love is at stake in these first six verses? Based upon the descriptions, this section points toward brotherly-sisterly love, love between neighbors and friends, coworkers and associates – in short, civilized relationships. Without this kind of agape love at the heart of relationships, indeed at the heart of community, society begins to crumble.

The next four verses, 27-30, point to self-control in interpersonally intimate relationships. The emphasis on negative dangers if self-control is lost illumine another kind of broken relationship based in love; this time however, love of the kind reserved for committed intimate relationships. Why? Again, it reflects on community; community being foundational for the core stability of committed intimate relationships taking their rightful place in God’s intention for humankind. If brokenness in this sphere festers, it, too, has deep ramifications for the life of the community as a whole.

The lesson in both paragraphs points to how inter-personal brokenness begets brokenness. The ultimate unhappy trajectory is a morass of selfish pursuits and harmful relationships that ultimately destroy one another, one’s self, community, and society as a whole. On the other hand, we are given to understand a heavenly antidote is at hand; God’s hesesd, that is, loving-kindness, which is the divine marker illuminating the wholeness in Christ that God desires for every person.

This hesed, based in divine mercy, is what intimate relationships as well as neighborly love is supposed to be about and celebrate. The true meaning of the Golden Rule to treat other people the way you want to be treated is found at work here. Based in nothing less than the first Commandment and its corollary found later in Matt. 22:37, [where Jesus] said: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

The next two verses, 31 and 32, take this to its ultimate social and civil conclusion, and address divorce. Ordinarily, this is to be avoided. Matthew’s recounting of this teaching, however, adds a phrase not found in Mark’s version of Jesus’ sermon. Matthew reads, “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Matthew’s added phrase, “except on the ground of unchastity,” informs us that good, right, and proper loving-kindness supercedes even marriage vows.

Dwelling on this phrase is not a happy place, but proves instructive when trying to understand the nature of broken human relationships. It is possible to be in a relationship with someone and pour oneself out. Completely out. Like the Indigo Girls’ song, it may start as a pin-prick to the heart; at first freely pouring out love and devotion. But, unfortunately, occasionally this pouring out is not reciprocated, becoming a continual hemorrhage of love until one is spent and loveless.

With Matthew’s added phrase, I wonder if he must have known this, maybe even experienced it himself. Perhaps personally, or perhaps symbolically as Judaism spurned those who called themselves “Followers of the Way,” and began actively persecuting those who followed the teachings of the Jewish renegade Rabbi Jesus. Either way, when love is poured out and never returned, or actively spurned, I would call this “unchastity.” Left unchecked, it can slowly destroy a person experiencing such desertification of the heart.  Please, do yourself and your wider community a favor and seek healing for this.

The last five verses, 33-37, lay the groundwork for speaking the truth in love. Using the example of “swearing vows,” the instruction is clear – don’t swear. Let your yes be yes and your no, no. The basic underlying premise is live with integrity in all you say and do, in both public and private spheres of life.[1] Put another way, personal integrity is right love in God and within oneself, allowing right love toward all others, even those who may be markedly different.[2]

Let it be our prayer that we may learn the art of reconciliation, loving neighbor as oneself and serving God with all that we are, all that we have, indeed, all that we may become.

May all glory be unto the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is our loving Christ. Amen? May it be so.

[1] Ronald J. Allen, “Homiletical Perspective, Matthew 5:21-37” in Feasting on the Word – Year A (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010).

[2] For additional rumination, consider comparing with Jill Duffield’s Weekly Lectionary Reflection on this passage, found here: http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?m=1102135377571&ca=04bdd75a-2149-4c02-ab74-3cc49bccbf5a.

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Mirrors of God

Traditional Style Worship used with the following reflection: NVPC Bulletin-TL 02-05-2023 YA E5

Scriptures: Matthew 5:13-20

Let us pray:

Holy Creator, the words that I craft, the thoughts and feelings they engender, are meant to honor you.  May your Holy Spirit intervene if needed, ensuring the message you wish to be heard despite my attempt to witness.  Amen.

One of the lectionary commentators this week really got me thinking.  In our last week to overlap lectionary readings from Matthew, two questions stand out as particularly important to consider in your current times and in light of current events. First, as a community of faith, who are you?  Second, as a community of faith, what are you to do?

The first question has many layers. We are Christians, those who have followed the way of Jesus, yes. Some of us might be undecided about how deeply Christian, or at least consider ourselves a combination of several spiritual traditions. This is perfectly fine; God looks into our hearts and sees who we truly are. Together, whatever we are, I pray this is a community that supports one another and our growth as human and spiritual beings.

With that in mind, I would like to quote past Presbyterian Outlook Editor Rev. Jill Duffield’s weekly reflection from three years ago on this date.  She writes,

True worship and religious ritual pleasing to God entails feeding the hungry, freeing the oppressed and bringing the homeless poor into your home. Christ crucified is the wisdom of God…Where are Christians being salt and bearing light? What do we imagine is glorifying God?[1]

Examining Matthew’s Jewish Christian community very well could provide us with some insights. Matthew lived in a time of theological and social tension. Times were changing, rapidly on the spiritual front, slowly on the political, and slower still on the cultural, but they were changing. The Jewish community was in conflict regarding the future of Judaism and what it meant to be Jewish. After the first Jewish-Roman war in 70 CE failed, what was thought of to be established forever, even under Roman Occupation, was now gone. Which begged the question, what could be done to hold onto an ethnic and spiritually cultural reality in the midst of devastation, grief and loss, and in many cases dispersal?

Compare the reality of Matthew’s time frame in or around 80 CE to contemporary values and practices. Concerning Christianity in America, previous generations and the various traditional main line Protestant denominations have been operating essentially the same way for about three generations or more. Some of those practices, and institutional beliefs and structures are no longer filling the needs or realities of younger worshipers.

Denominations are experiencing loss of social power.  Even as Jesus seems to be answering “Who are we” and “What are we to do” with his teaching, recorded in Matthew’s tempestuous time, so we must ask, “What does it mean to be disciples of Jesus Christ in [our setting today]?”[2] Digging further into the text of Matthew, we find deeper meanings for Salt and Light. “In Judaism, salt was a symbol of covenant.”[3] Also in Matthew’s time there was a prevailing belief that the apocalypse was just around the corner, with the result that Jesus would return soon and “fully establish the realm of God.”[4] Therefore, the community of now is also a community of eschatology. In simpler terms, this means we are the Realm of God “already but not yet fully come into its own.”

Light in this passage is ascribed to be the vocation of the whole community of Israel – whether or not it exists as a physical nation or a diaspora community of like-minded Jewish peoples living across the Roman world.  In their life, their spirituality, and their very comportment day to day even as oppressed, ex-patriot, even immigrant peoples, they were to be role models for the whole of the known world and those who governed it.

If we are to take being disciples of Jesus seriously, then we, altogether as God’s community the Church, are nothing less than a mirror for the whole world to see reflected God’s economy, God’s community, and God’s loving kindness enacted to all people at all times in all places we inhabit. In short, God’s heavenly kingdom incarnate on earth. The purpose of Light is to illumine.

In this work, for all of us, we stand at the threshold of God’s Realm, ready to enter, yes, but also ready to hold the door for others to enter in. The single most incredible spiritual practice I can think of that we can participate in today is to pray, with all of our being, that our eyes may be opened to see God working in the lives of others; and, to be bold enough to ask of God, “How might we take part in your work in the lives of our family, friends, and neighbors? Use me! Use us all O God, to be your light in the world!”

May all glory be unto the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even him who is the Christ. Amen?  May it be so.

[1] Jill Duffield, “Looking into the Lectionary – 5th Sunday after the Epiphany” accessed February 5, 2020, http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?m=1102135377571&ca=91a9d3cc-cee6-4757-85ff-774411c1916c.

[2] Ronald J. Allen, “Homiletical Perspective, Matthew 5:13-20” in Feasting on the Word – Year A, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010).

[3] Ibid..

[4] Ibid.

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Beauty First, Then Salt and Light

Bulletin for traditional reformed worship for this reflection: Bulletin-01-29-2023 E4 YA

Scripture: Matthew 5:1-16

Let us pray:

In the divine silence of our souls, help us, O Spirit Wisdom, to discern the calling of our Lord’s voice, that, with you, we may follow and do God’s will.  Amen.

I referenced in the Weekly E-newsletter that going through pastoral transitions creates a mixed emotional landscape. Know that each of us brings with us to this journey the mixed emotions of this present time, all of which are influenced by the relationships we have built and enjoyed over the years. It is good and natural to be aware of our feelings – however mixed they may be; it is also important to be aware that others around us are also experiencing their own web of emotions.  So I urge you in all love to bear with one another, reach out a hand of support to one another, and bravely walk together into this new chapter of congregational life.  Fear not, friends, for God, Emmanuel, is with us.

For just such a time as this new beginning, we turn to the first public teachings of Jesus when he set out to gather disciples and settle into a new role as Rabbi in Residence. According to Matthew’s account, this pouint of transition is found at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount.  Today’s texts may be familiar to many of you, but I’d like to draw your attention to them through the lens of your Epiphany star word – and with the lens of new beginnings.

Jesus began his teaching as an itinerant Rabbi in the region of the Gentiles, called Galilee. In the fourth chapter of Matthew, we witness Jesus specifically calling ordinarily overlooked people to “Come and follow, and I will make you fishers of people.” He engaged in his itinerant travels, and gradually the twelve followed him as he moved through the region. Then he changed tactics: Once his notoriety had been well-cast, he “went up the mountain” as Matthew records, and began to teach any who came to him.  This is the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, at the point of transition between itinerantcy and what grows into a new movement. What might we draw out from these familiar texts for such a time as this?

Jesus shifts here from Itinerant Rabbi to Seated Sage. He begins this Sermon on the Mount by teaching the Beautiful Sayings, what many of you more familiarly term, “The Beatitudes.” Something to keep in mind about these sayings: Each of them specifically critiques contextual realities poorer Hebrew people experienced day to day. In them, Jesus critiques both Roman Empire privilege and elite Jewish establishment.

“The Beatitudes are spoken to those groups whom God deems worthy, not by virtue of their own achievements or status in society, but because God chooses to be on the side of the weak, the forgotten, the despised, the justice seekers, the peace makers, and those persecuted because of their beliefs.”[1]

This is important to note because it shapes the next level of inquiry for us and our work here in Corvallis: Who are modern day equivalents?  Whom would God choose among our societal context today and who would fit the examples of the Roman Empire and elite Jewish establishment?  Hold that in your mind for a moment and consider this:  identifying Biblical characters as well as modern day iterations frames for us to whom Jesus is speaking for the rest of his sermon.  It is not too difficult to discern that those ancient listeners are in the same position we are: disciples whom Christ has called, those in the crowd who have come and followed, and those to whom he will eventually give the mission of bringing the Kingdom of Heaven near to others.

This is particularly important for us today, in our context, in our moment of transition.  No matter who resides in the office of pastor or any other staff positions, the mission of the church remains the same, and you are the church, the body of Christ!  We are in this together, and we all have a part to play.  In the next several verses following the Beautiful Sayings, Jesus provides commentary on just that; in verses 5:13-16 he teaches:

13“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

In these two metaphors, Jesus “describe[s] and prescribe[s] who his followers are and what they do for and in the world.”[2] First, they are to “elicit goodness on the earth.”[3] Second, we learn from the context of the scripture that this is enacted in community, becoming like a mirror of God reflecting out to God’s people the justice and mercy implicit in God’s love, which is God’s Heavenly kingdom lived out in the world. That goes for the time of Jesus, the time of the present, and for all times to come.

Let us pray:

Thank you, Lord, for this glimpse into your heart. You who love all people, all beings, indeed all Creation; hear us as we wonder and pray: instead of casting ourselves upon you to be transformed, instead enter into us so we might see through your eyes. Grant us the grace to learn how to do ministry not to others, but with them; for even as you have been born in us, so too you have come to and are transforming others. Invite us into your heart and your work, that we might better serve you and your unfolding purposes. In Christ’ name we pray, and all God’s children say, “Amen.”

[1] Marcia Y. Riggs, “Theological Perspective, Matthew 5:1-12” in Feasting on the Word – Year A, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010).

[2] Marcia Y. Riggs, “Theological Perspective, Matthew 5:13-20” in Feasting on the Word – Year A, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010).

[3] Ibid.

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Bearing the Light in Challenging Times

Bulletin for this Reflection: Bulletin-01-08-2023 E YA

Scriptures: Isaiah 60:1-6; Matthew 2:1-12

Let us pray:

In the divine silence of our souls, help us, O Spirit Wisdom, to discern the calling of our Lord’s voice, that, with you, we may follow and do God’s will.  Amen.

We entered into a new year this past week, and 1st Pres Corvallis is entering a new chapter of its life and ministry. Are you ready for it? There are several tasks ahead of us. One task, as always, is to breathe new life and meaning into the ancient scriptures handed down to us. How?  Facilitate movement from the spiritual disciplines of prayer and preaching toward spiritual formation and action in the world.

We chose to bring to light the Epiphany passages, used for January sixth, today as we begin to identify how this congregation will live into its new life together. Epiphany passages illuminate the greatest gift we can bring to the world around us – God’s love incarnate through us, shining for others. In today’s Isaiah passage:

“God’s transformative light appears…in at least three ways.  First, we are reminded of the place of the prophetic imagination in the work of hope, as the prophet’s voice helps prepare the human heart for God’s transformations. Second, we are reminded that power, to be truly of God, is attractive rather than imposing; God’s light shining through us will be a beacon to all nations, and will bring forward to good and sacred use the gifts of the earth. Finally, we remember that the darkness shall not last, neither as the dark days of winter nor as the dark days of the soul, for the light rises now just over the horizon.”[1]

One salient point of caution is worth holding up to the light in today’s passage from Isaiah. “All churches struggle to avoid having their labors become bogged down in the difficult realities of communal life.” It would be good for us to hold this caution close lest we give up in despair over so many changes in so little time.  I urge you, be courageous, and look at this time as an incredible opportunity for regeneration.

Today’s passage is really one of hope. When taken through the lens of our understanding of Christ’s teachings,

“the church’s work continues in the knowledge of God’s faithfulness…however humble the reality of our ministry may appear…, participation in the work of God casts us in the full radiance of God’s light in the world…[thus] there is no failure, no waste in the service of God.”[2]

As some of us may know from personal experience, once downtrodden and faced with challenges, goals that initially are exciting visions become harder and harder to realize, requiring continual encouragement to maintain hope and spirit in the upward struggle toward transformation and new growth.

There are several key differences for us as Christians bring this Hebrew text into our time and circumstance. In the Jewish Study Bible, to be true to the prophet’s intent, is to understand that “God’s glory is completed in the glorification of God’s people….” Which is a surprising turn-around from the expectation of a single Messiah king descended from David to rule them. “…their [corporate] radiance is essential to any bright future of God’s own imagining,”[3] writes Barbara Brown Taylor. This is a prophesy not for a descendent of the royal house of David, but for the city of Zion, [that is, Jerusalem] and Israel as a whole. [Quoting the Jewish Study Bible, we find] “The prophet does not look forward to the arrival of a human Messiah to liberate the Israelites or a human king to govern them. Rather, God will rule the nation directly in the future, and the whole nation will enjoy royal status.”[4]

For Christian believers reading this text, the spiritual return is exponentially magnified to mean Christ’s coming. It was chosen for an Epiphany text for this very reason.

“This poem calls the church and the synagogue to use our imagination to see what is not yet true and act as though it already were true.  In spite of the world’s indifference to it, the church can arise and shine, acting under the assumption that God is still at work through both church and synagogue [all three Abrahamic faiths I might add] offering light, healing, and reconciliation to the world…”[5]

A world in much need of all three, even as we are.  As Barbara Brown Taylor notes, in the end there is no contradiction between interpretive Jewish and Christian epiphany proclamations.

“Jesus comes to bring God’s own light into the world, not to keep it for himself.  He comes to set other people on fire, not to burn like a torch all on his own. In the same way that Isaiah declares the rising of God’s glory on all God’s people, it is possible [for us] to declare the shining of Christ’s light in all Christ’s kin.”[6]

What will this particular Christian community become in this new year? How will we embody (dare I say “incarnate?”) God’s light, healing, and reconciliation in our time, in this community and beyond? The answer is up to all, together. I am convinced that as community continues to be built among us, God’s light will shine; and the light God provides will illumine the way forward.

May all glory be unto the one who lived, died, and rose again for us, even him who is the Christ.  Amen?  May it be so.

Questions for Reflection

In Epiphany when the magi make their great journey to see the Christ Child, we see Jesus drawing all creation to the divine life revealed in him, and we see the realization of God’s dream of reconciled creation. In our own way, we are each endowed by the Spirit with unique and precious gifts for sharing God’s healing love in a good but often divided world. What spiritual practices do you engage in that allow you to stay peaceful, courteous, and develop a respectful regard for difference? How do you stay present and create openness for finding, revealing, and activating God’s reconciling love in the world?

Household Prayer: Morning

Glorious God, each day provides opportunity to awaken to the radiance of your presence, and to welcome your blessing into my life. How often I forget that I am your home! Help me to draw more closely to you, that I may manifest your love more deeply in the world. May every bright place and darkened corner grow ever more luminous as I bear your light this day. Amen.

Household Prayer: Evening

Holy Jesus, I thank you for sharing your life with me today. As darkness comes and blankets the earth, be with all who suffer from sickness, hunger, or lack of shelter. Kindle in them the warmth of your presence, and surround them with your steadfast care. I am grateful for the blessings of this day. And in the light of your love I rest this night. Amen.

[1] Emily Askew, “Theological Perspective, Isaiah 60:1-6” in Feasting on the Word – Year A, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Barbara Brown Taylor, “Homiletical Perspective, Isaiah 60:1-6” in Feasting on the Word – Year A, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010).

[4] The Jewish Study Bible, ed. Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 903.

[5] Charles L. Aaron, “Exegetical Perspective”

[6] Barbara Brown Taylor, “Homiletical Perspective”

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Love Has Come

Order of Worship to go with the following reflection: Bulletin-12-18-2022 A4 YA

Scripture: Luke 1:39-45 (46-55)

Let us pray:

O Divine Mystery, as we prepare for your coming, open our hearts and illumine these scriptures by your Holy Spirit – that we may learn and do your will, following in the way of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Mary knew something about love. I would hazard a guess that many first time mothers and fathers do; it involves a deep and compassionate acceptance of who we are becoming as parents and the overwhelming state of bringing a new life into the world.  For Mary, however, there was a whole other level.  She was pledged to Joseph, yes. But she also pledged to become the handmaiden of God, chosen vessel of God’s child, God’s incarnate life on earth! I imagine upon reflection she may have been a little bit more scared than her initial “let it be unto me as you have said.”

Here I depart for a moment from classical commentary on this scripture.  Where can she go for wisdom, insight, and support?  For confirmation that she can do this? To whom can she turn, her mother?  Especially if word gets out about irregularities in the accepted roadmap for marriage and the beginning of family life in her culture?

We read, “In those days Mary set out and went with haste.” Where does she go? To Elizabeth, also unusually pregnant, married to a priest serving the Temple.  Elizabeth, of more years and experience, becomes for her a “safe” haven as she finds out what to do, and what she may need for her own impending life’s journey as mother – mother not only of a child but mother of God.  Mary stays with Elizabeth all during her first trimester of pregnancy.  Scripture tells us Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months before returning home; no doubt soaking in all the wisdom offered by a family tied to the Temple yet at the same time the practical lesson of witnessing the final trimester of Elizabeth’s pregnancy.  But why do I share all this homey illustrations?  Isn’t there a deeper meaning for our faith in this story?

Devotional writer Emmy Arnold once wrote, “Wherever the Christmas Child is born in a heart, wherever Jesus begins his earthly life anew – that is where the life of God’s love and of God’s peace dawns again.”[1]

I am reminded there are times in our lives when we feel like love has gone dormant.  Those are not easy times, and often require us to seek the blessings of help in learning to love again.  Similarly, there are times in the spiritual life when it feels like God – who is love – seems far away from us, and we wonder, why?  Why does God not stay with us and keep us safe in love for always?  Perhaps the answer lies in the metaphor of dormancy. Not that God has gone dormant, but perhaps in our very finite human moments, our hearts have gone dormant.  God has not left us, but perhaps our ability to perceive where God is for a time leaves us – when we find ourselves in challenging times of transition, where often some necessary pruning takes place in our lives.

I wonder, what would it mean for us to bear God’s love into the world today?  Johann Arnold has something to say about that:

“It means fighting the impulse to live for ourselves, instead of for others.  It means choosing generosity over greed.  It also means living humbly, rather than seeking influence and power.  Finally, it means being ready to die again and again – to ourselves, and to every self-serving opinion or agenda.”[2]

The revolutionary words of Elizabeth and Mary speak to this.  Mary’s magnificat is a turning upside down of the status quo.  Rich going away empty, the hungry filled with good things, powerful knocked out of their thrones, and the lowly lifted up.  For them, it is hope for a reversal of real and present poverty as a subjugated people. For the underdogs of the world, the text can be music to the ears. However, to the seats of power, this is a tough reading, easily counter to the design of holding on to power indefinitely.

We are, in many cases, the victors and the powerful, as such we have three tasks here.  One, admit how it is.  Two, seek justice for those who need it. Three, seek the deeper message we can relate and share: the perspective of a spiritually subjugated people.  Where are our own spirits most tied down in current times?  Where can we find wholeness in this busy season and in these times?  If God sent us a prophetic message today, what would it be?  Could we even hear and understand the importance of the prophet’s voice: “From you, O Bethlehem, shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel…” (Micah 5:2)?

When that One comes, will we once more learn what true sovereignty and kin-ship is supposed to be?  Or has that One already come, into our own hearts and set our souls to singing?  What is your song this Advent season?  “There is more love, somewhere…” A year of change has brought you this far; now rest and wait in love’s patient stillness for Christ’s coming.  Let us all offer ourselves to be vessels of our Creator’s love to the world once more – in the name of Jesus, Mary’s son.  Amen?  May it be so.

[1] Emmy Arnold, “Christmas Joy,” in Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas (Farmington, PA: Plough Publishing House, 2001). 129

[2] Johann Christoph Arnold, “Be Not Afraid,” in Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas (Farmington, PA: Plough Publishing House, 2001). 156-157

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Hopeful Peace

Bulletin for this reflection is available here: Bulletin-12-04-2022 YA

Scripture: Luke 1:26-38 *

*Note: Not RCL year A – Utilized in Generation to Generation: A Sactified Art Advent/Christmas curriculum, 2022) which the church I’m currently serving opted to utilized this year.

Let us pray: May the words of our mouths and the meditations of all our hearts guide our understanding, O Holy One.  Nurture us we pray, as we grow into who you would fashion us to be.  Amen.

Contemporary Mystic Cynthia Bourgeault wrote,

“The journey to the wellsprings of hope is really a journey toward the center, toward the innermost ground of our being where we meet and are met by God.”[1]

Every so often I have to be reminded that contemplative prayer is useful to allow us access to that which lies hidden in our souls. Messages from God, implanted in our very beings, are placed there for us to discover when we are most truly ourselves.  Yet, how do we get there; especially if contemplative prayer isn’t our strong point?  Last week, we began our Advent journey with the theme of Hope, lighting the candle of Hope. This week we travel deeper into Advent to discover Peace.

Where or how do you find your greatest peace? You heard some of our collective answers earlier.  Whatever it may be, this time of year with Christmas – that is, the secular version – preparations and family gatherings on the horizon, it is often difficult to stop. Breathe peace.

For me, these final days of golden yellow-orange leaves falling daily to the ground for me to rake can sometimes be a doorway to that peace.  Similarly, when the carols of the season begin to waft through the air, a corresponding light-heartedness creeps into my being, despite the daily challenges and occasional sorrows that try to intrude.  I am convinced in those moments when peace is palpable, a window to our inner being is opened for a moment and the deep Shalom of God is kindled in our very souls.  From there, if we let it, it can creep steadily through our whole body-beings, much like sunlight illuminating the hillsides to the west an inch at a time as it rises each day in this season of dark.

For all these I am grateful.  Grateful to rest for a moment, if only brief moments at a time within the day, knowing that Christ’s peace always waits, eternally ready to bloom in us if we but pause to give it space.  It waits; Christ waits; for our soul doorway to open.  Then, if we are but open to it as Mary was open, our hearts, too fill with Emmanuel presence, God-with-us presence! This is the gift of Christmas!  This is what we wait for in this season of Advent waiting! The filling of our cup.

It has been observed that artwork through the centuries depicts variously characterized Marian responses to the angel Gabriel – some fearful, some wondering, some demure and subservient, some assertive, even one with Mary and Gabriel talking together like old friends.[2]  But I wonder what it was really like for her – and what her internal response really was.  What kind of deep attentiveness to peace must she have learned to practice to even be able to receive such a heavenly messenger and accept her God-given role?  I can only imagine Mary knew and must have practiced regularly how to open her soul’s doorway and allow hopeful peace to enter in.  How else could she have received the angel as she did, knowing the radical ramifications for her social standing in both her present and future family?

Bringing “The Annunciation” home to us, what kind of peace do we need as we search our own hearts for a place to let Christ’s peace be born again?  That deep peace surpassing all understanding, all woes, all conflict and striving, all troubles and tribulations, all shifting comfort zones and lives that are astir with change?  “Fear Not!” The angel said. We would do well to listen to this heavenly messenger’s voice: For no matter where you are in your journey of faith, this Advent Peace we anticipate is both the Advent of something new and the Christ Presence planted in, as Cynthia wrote, “the innermost ground of our being where we meet and are met by God.”[2]

Here is a question for you to consider as we move to making art and fellowship together after worship today. Were you ever taught, in your journey of faith or life, how to find and rest in this Peace?  How might we nurture this kind of peace in ourselves?  How might we teach it and pass it on to those generations coming after us?  In worship, yes, when we gather in this place to offer thanks and praise, confession and sorrow, supplication and a listening heart.  In worship through the songs we sing, the bread we break, the cup we share. In worship when we hear our many storied scriptures spoken and reflect on, and enacting behaviors of hope, peace and justice woven through our every day to day. Use our fellowship time today to ponder with one another – and especially those not in your own generational cohort – the deeper things of God and how God has touched your lives and given you new life, new hope-filled peace.

I would be remiss if I did not point out the other side of this, Christ’s peace, we should bear in mind.  Peace does not always equal serenity.  In fact, sometimes it is serenity we seek, not God’s peace.  The peace of God can also mean readiness to face hard trials, willingness to go against the grain, and yes, even the way of suffering, as Jesus showed us with his passion. He came that the power of death would be swallowed up; and a heavenly kin-dom be established.  But this also means there is an unbreakable connection between the manger and the cross.

Standing firm in the Spirit of Truth that God has shown us in and through Christ, and in the integrity of our place as representatives of the House of God, means that we must live in Christ’s peace even when it is not easy and the world loves us not.  Being filled with hopeful peace in the midst of tribulation is being firmly rooted in God, firmly growing the heavenly way, standing on the mountain of God and the valleys of Earth and holding our hands up to Jesus, who is the Alpha and Omega, the righteous branch and the living tree.

Hope-filled Peace is also a bend in the road; Beginning the journey in hope, finding ourselves enveloped in God’s peace, we can continue on toward joy, knowing that somehow in the mystery of God, we become leaders and guides along a road less taken in these days; and eventual partakers in the heavenly banquet to which we are called.  Behold! The time is coming and has now come:

When the mountains and valleys are silent,

When the waters before you lay still,

The Voice of Creation will whisper:

“Listen with all of your will.”

Around you the wind will murmur,

A freshness from silvery air.

The Breath of the Wind is an answer,

To long unspoken prayer.[3] 

~ stc

[1] Cynthia Bourgeault, Mystical Hope: Trusting in the Mercy of God (Lanham, MD: Rowland & Littlefield, 2001).

[2] Cynthia Rigby, “Theological Perspective, Luke 1:26-38” in Feasting on the Word, Year B (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014).

[3] Scott Crane, “Breath of the Wind,” Poem. Accessed 12/1/2022, https://scottrick.me/poetry/.

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