Advent Three – Friday

Luke 1:26-55

Today I return to the reflections from Interfaith Workers Justice on this scripture.

Hear what they say, particularly:

…when Mary sings her song (The Magnificat) she is celebrating the fact that God is coming to set this broken world right.

And again, yes, things are not perfect yet, but Mary is being subversive. This is a protest song! This is Mary’s “With God on Our Side” or “A Change is Gonna Come”. The Son of the Most High is about to turn the present order upside-down.

When we gather for prayer vigils outside of … any oppressive institution then we too can sing songs of celebrations. We, like Mary, are able to live into this future Kingdom of God where the humble are made great. Even in the midst of our low-status we are able to expose the greed of such corporations.

Just as Jesus’ death only truly exposed the fear of the Roman government, the more stores they close due to workers demanding due respect and pay, the more it highlights to the world that this is an institution that feeds on the those already marginalized and thrives on exploitation. You don’t kill movements that don’t threaten your way of life.

So yes, we gather and we celebrate the change that will come as if it is here right now because God is using us, God’s humble servants, to create the coming Kingdom now!

Amen and amen!

Advent Three – Thursday

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

This speaks particularly to me. One of my spiritual gifts is the gift of prophecy, and it is a VERY difficult gift to have. Sometimes it’s hard not to look at it like a curse rather than a gift. Unfortunately, prophets usually don’t have very comforting or uplifting things to say. They are usually critical of the powers that be, and often offend others, even other believers. That’s probably why Paul says not to despise the prophets, or the prophetic gift.

I have a hard time not resenting the gift when other people look at me like I have snakes crawling out of my ears. But I try to examine everything I say in the light of the scriptures, and in the light the Spirit shows me. I use the tests of mercy, justice and love, as shown by Jesus’s admonitions in the Beatitudes to inform my attitudes.

The Christmas promise is for justice, mercy, and love. Dear God, help me rejoice always in these things in all my life.

Advent Three – Wednesday

Psalm 50

This psalm is another in a long list of dire prophecies. I don’t know that I have ever read it carefully before, but I was particularly struck by verses 16-22.

16But to the wicked God says:  “What right have you to recite my statutes, or take my covenant on your lips?

17For you hate discipline, and you cast my words behind you.

18You make friends with a thief when you see one, and you keep company with adulterers.

19“You give your mouth free rein for evil, and your tongue frames deceit.

20You sit and speak against your kin; you slander your own mother’s child.

21These things you have done and I have been silent; you thought that I was one just like yourself.

But now I rebuke you, and lay the charge before you.

22“Mark this, then, you who forget God, or I will tear you apart, and there will be no one to deliver.

At first I was going to point fingers at any of a whole list of people who should worry about it being written towards them. Then I realized that it was probably also written towards me. Because I often forget to be thankful, I hate discipline, I befriend thieves and adulterers, I lie (occasionally – yes, I do), and I gossip. This is the reason we need Jesus to come again every Christmas.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Advent Three – Tuesday

Isaiah 11:1-9

This summer, Sarah Wiles, the pastor at Bethany Presbyterian Church, preached a sermon on this text. She told a story that is very familiar to those of us who live in sight of Mt. Rainier.

When she and her husband were interviewing for the position at Bethany, they came to visit in early March, in the time of grey days and cloudy, weeping skies. Everyone they talked to said “Just wait until you see Mt. Rainier. It’s so beautiful.” Sarah and her husband nodded, and looked East whenever they were outside, but they didn’t see anything except grey skies.

They returned to visit and look for a house in May, and the skies greeted them with clouds and rain. Everyone again reiterated how beautiful the mountain was on clear days. They were beginning to doubt whether there was any mountain out there, or, if there was, they doubted it was as spectacular as everyone was telling them.

They found a house, returned to their previous post, packed up their things, and moved to Tacoma in early June. After settling in, she started working at Bethany, and then, one day, she was driving home and came around the corner – and THERE WAS THE MOUNTAIN! She almost drove off the road looking at it.

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Now, she knows that the mountain is there all the time, whether she can see it or not.

The mountain is like God’s love. Sometimes we can’t see it because it is hidden by events or the weather or some for some other reason, but it is ALWAYS there – beautiful, solid, lasting. And once you’ve seen it, you’ll never doubt that it is there just waiting for the clouds to clear.

They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.


Advent Three – Monday

Isaiah 8:16-9:1

I’m still processing the events of this past Friday and I imagine several of you are, too.

I know we all are looking for someone or something to blame, but I thought it was particularly insensitive of Mike Huckabee blaming us all for “taking God out of schools” for the senseless killing. Talk about shameless politicization of a tragedy. Anyway, I thought Rachel Held Evans’ comments were particularly helpful and to the point.

I also thought this column from Jen Floyd Engel on Fox was helpful in reminding us that life goes on, and we need to do what we can to spread the JOY we feel in our faith.

In the text today, we are promised “…there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish.” That’s the promise of Advent!

Advent Three – Sunday

Isaiah 61:1-3

I got hung up today on “the year of the Lord’s favor”, or as the Inclusive Bible puts it, “a year of favor from  YHWH.” You will remember from Leviticus 25, every 50th year was “the year of the Lord.”  Any land that had been sold was returned to the seller; anyone who had sold herself into slavery was freed; any debts were forgiven. Everything was reset to ZERO – the poor didn’t owe anything, and the rich had just enough.

Of course, most scholars think this rarely, if ever, happened. Probably, the priests and/or lawyers conveniently “forgot” that this was the 50th year, or they were bribed to neglect to mention it. And they were probably the only people who could count and keep records to even know that this was the 50th year.

But the real JOY of the year of Jubilee was that God would set everything right again!

It seems we really, really need God to set everything right right now! Come, Lord Jesus.


Advent Two – Saturday

Matthew 2:17-18

I am still speechless. Thanks to the Presbyterian Church (USA) for reminding me of this hymn.

God, we have heard it, sounding in the silence: News of the children lost to this world’s violence. Children of promise! Then without a warning, Loved ones are mourning.

Jesus, you came to bear our human sorrow; You came to give us hope for each tomorrow. You are our life, Lord God’s own love revealing. We need your healing!

Heal us from giving weapons any glory; Help us, O Prince of Peace, to hear your story; Help us resist the evil all around here; May love abound here!

By your own Spirit, give your church a clear voice; In this world’s violence, help us make a new choice. Help us to witness to the joy your peace brings, Until your world sings!

HERZLIEBSTER JESU: Johann Crueger, 1640 (Ah, Holy Jesus) Hymn text copyright © 1999 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.

Amen, and amen…

Advent Two – Thursday

Psalm 62

Yesterday, I, along with most of the Presbyterian Church (USA), was saddened to learn of the death of our immediate past Moderator of the General Assembly, Cynthia Bolbach. One of the best (and first) blogs in eulogy I read about her after her death is this one from Mark Koenig.

I really took this one from Theresa Cho to heart also, in this season of Advent. She reminded me that life and death are indivisibly intertwined.

Fittingly, the lectionary Psalm for today also reminded me that “God alone is my rock and salvation, blest be the name of the Lord!”

Advent Two – Wednesday

Isaiah 6:1-8

As one of those, like Isaiah with the gift of prophecy, I struggle with accepting that I have to be the one who says “Here I am, send me.”

I know many folks probably hate it when I keep pointing out the sins of our time via Facebook, but I can’t help but feel that it is a holy calling.

If you haven’t read this piece by Diana Butler Bass yet from the Huffington Post, you should have. It has certainly been linked to by many, many diverse folks on Facebook. If you haven’t seen it, go NOW and read it. If you have seen it, don’t worry about who you are going to bother by linking to it. This is a word that needs repeating.