ROAR!

Exodus 1:8-14 (New Living Translation)
Eventually, a new king came to power in Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph or what he had done.
He said to his people, “Look, the people of Israel now outnumber us and are stronger than we are. We must make a plan to keep them from growing even more. If we don’t, and if war breaks out, they will join our enemies and fight against us. Then they will escape from the country.” So the Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves. They appointed brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down with crushing labor. They forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses as supply centers for the king. But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more the Israelites multiplied and spread, and the more alarmed the Egyptians became. So the Egyptians worked the people of Israel without mercy. They made their lives bitter, forcing them to mix mortar and make bricks and do all the work in the fields. They were ruthless in all their demands.


[Transcript of a sermon delivered at Plantation United Methodist Church, June 2, 2019]

Good morning! This is the first week of our four-week series we’re calling ROAR!  It’s based on the themes from our upcoming Vacation Bible School, which begins on June 17th. Over these next few weeks, our Sanctuary will be transformed with our VBS decorations!  This year, you will see in this space the creation of an amazing jungle as we prepare to welcome well over a hundred children to our campus!

During this series we’ll explore some of the same themes that the kids will, looking at the same scripture: the Book of Exodus. The tagline for the ROAR Vacation Bible School curriculum is: “Life is wild. God is good.” Pretty cool, I think! They are going to have so much fun!

In pondering how to adapt a kids’ theme for us adults, I started thinking about what “ROAR” means…

As a noun, “roar” can mean “the deep cry of a wild animal” — the Merriam-Webster Dictionary uses the example of a lion’s powerful cry. This was the first thing I thought of when I heard the VBS theme. Maybe it sprang to mind first because I was looking at the ROAR logo with a big ol’ lion on it…

Screen Shot 2019-06-02 at 4.40.06 AM

But “roar” can also mean a loud, continuous sound. For example, one of my favorite sounds in the world…

the roar of ocean waves crashing on a beach.

Roar can mean a boisterous, loud, energetic outcry, like the sound of sports fans at the end of the game when their team wins…

the roar of the crowd!

And “roar” can also mean… a loud, deep cry of pain or distress or anger. And it’s this sense of roar that we’ll be looking at today.

The story of Exodus begins with a little exposition, a setting of the scene, letting the reader know the background of all that is to happen. The Book of Genesis (the opening book of the Bible) ends with the story of Joseph, who became the second most powerful man in the land of Egypt. He was Pharaoh’s right-hand man, and, using his influence, Joseph saved his very large family from certain death during a long famine. Joseph’s family, called the “Israelites,” settled down in Egypt, and made their lives there.

But by the time of our scripture today, many, many years have passed — generations! — and the scriptures tell us that the new Pharaoh, the King of Egypt, didn’t remember Joseph as a leader. He just saw the large number of his family’s descendants, foreigners living all throughout his land, as a threat to the safety of his kingdom. And so… he enslaved them.

Men, women, the elderly, parents, the young, all now slaves in Egypt. The conditions were horrible, as they were forced to do back-breaking work of building cities for those who enslaved them. In chapter two, we’ll hear that the people cried out, groaning to God in the pain and distress and anger. Lifting up their spirits in prayer, they roared out their anguish to God.

Here’s what always breaks my heart when I read this part of the Exodus story. Whenever you have a group of people who are oppressed, abused like the Israelites, that always means that there is another group of people who are doing the oppressing, or who witness the oppression and do nothing.

You’ve heard me say this many times over the years, but one of the things that breaks my heart wide open in pain is this:

people created by & loved by God
doing great harm to
people created by & loved by God.

It is just…
awful.
Inconceivable.
Utterly heart-sundering.

Screen Shot 2019-06-02 at 6.44.51 PMWith that in mind…

I’d like to read to you this morning from a book that few non-clergy people ever see, let alone open: The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church. It’s kind of the rulebook of our denomination, and it is revised every four years — this is the 2016 version. Changes to the language therein will be discussed (no doubt with vim, vigor, & vitriol) at General Conference next year, in 2020.

In this book, which is neither light nor exciting reading, there is a section called the “Social Principles.” It’s a long statement about all sorts of issues, from science and technology, rights of children, sustainable agriculture, divorce, health care, church and state relations, and on and on. It is a pretty impressively comprehensive document.

And you may be surprised to learn that it is one of the reasons I fell in love with The United Methodist Church.

Not because I agree with every single word in those Social Principles — I don’t!!! — but because I was so impressed that a church would take the time to thoughtfully and prayerfully consider a God-honoring response to each of the issues raised.

Part III of the Social Principles is “The Social Community.” The introduction to this section goes like this… are you sitting comfortably and ready for this? … okay, here goes. The Social Community, paragraph 162…

The rights and privileges a society bestows upon or withholds from those who comprise it indicate the relative esteem in which that society holds particular persons and groups of persons. We affirm all persons as equally valuable in the sight of God. We therefore work toward societies in which each person’s value is recognized, maintained, and strengthened. We support the basic rights of all persons to equal access to housing, education, communication, employment, medical care, legal redress for grievances, and physical protection. We deplore acts of hate or violence against groups or persons based on race, color, national origin, ethnicity, age, gender, disability, status, economic condition, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religious affiliation. Our respect for the inherent dignity of all persons leads us to call for the recognition, protection, and implementation of the principles of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights so that communities and individuals may claim and enjoy their universal, indivisible, and inalienable rights.

Okay… I just totally violated one of my preaching rules: never read a long passage from the Book of Discipline! Thanks for sticking with me through that!

Why did I read that section? Because it matters for the way we live out our faith. At the end of just about every worship service, I close with these words: “What we have said with our lips in this hour, may we believe in our hearts. And what we believe in our hearts, may we practice in our lives.” Our faith is meant to be a lived faith, an active faith, one that makes a difference in our world — not just for us, but for those around us as well.

In the Day 1 curriculum for the ROAR VBS is “When Life Is Unfair… ROAR!” Merriam-Webster defines “unfair” as “marked by injustice, partiality, or deception.”

I’m going to really push my preaching boundaries here this morning, and quote from yet another Methodist policy book, this time The Book of Resolutions:

The United Methodist Church believes God’s love for the world is an active and engaged love, a love seeking justice and liberty. We cannot just be observers. So we care enough about people’s lives to risk interpreting God’s love, to take a stand, to call each of us into a response, no matter how controversial or complex. The church helps us think and act out a faith perspective, not just responding to all the other ‘mind-makers-up’ that exist in our society.

I think they could have found a better phrase than “mind-makers-up” there, but you get the point. Our faith is mean to be a lived one — it is meant to make an actual difference in the world around us. Our faith… it is meant to roar! To roar so loudly as to be heard over the clamor of the world around us, speaking out boldly for justice and compassion and care.

This is a fundamental part of who we are, who we are meant to be. It is so fundamental to our faith, in fact, that it is a part of the ritual that marks the entrance into the life of faith: baptism!

In the ritual of baptism, we usually ask four questions of those being baptized:

First: Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?
[response: I do!]

Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?
[response: I do.]

Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?
[response: I do.]

According to the grace given to you, will you remain a faithful member of Christ’s holy Church and serve as Christ’s representative in the world?
[response: I will.]

I’ve often thought, as I read those questions to people being baptized, that the order of those four vows was a bit wonky. A few times I’ve actually changed the order, asking first the questions about acknowledging Jesus as Savior and serving as God’s representatives, because, after all, that’s where the Christian faith begins.

* (But I’ve learned over the years that
you just shouldn’t mess too much
with the baptismal ritual…

’cause people… they get really
really
really
mad…)

But think about those questions that we ask! If you’ve been in church for any length of time, you have, no doubt, heard them before. Perhaps you remember answering them yourself, if you were baptized as an adult. These questions are important. These questions were created, crafted with intention and purpose, meant to be a launching pad for our faith!

In baptism, we ask forgiveness for our sins, we acknowledge Jesus as our Lord as the core of our faith, and we promise to serve as Christ’s representative in the world.

We say yes all to this… but what does it mean? How do we serve as Christ’s representative in the world? That second vow tell us how!

Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?

It’s right there in the words of our baptism.

From the time of John Wesley on, from the very beginning of the Methodist movement, this faith, it was meant to be a faith that makes a difference. A faith that moves each of us to look around our world to witness where things are not in line with God’s will, where people are being harmed, where God’s love is not reaching.

And we are called not just to see it, to acknowledge it, but to do something about it. That roar of discontent, of heartbreak, of disillusionment within our spirits, that feeling that something needs to change… that is God roaring within us.

We don’t have to look back thousands of years, to the time of the Israelite slaves in Egypt, we don’t have to look back to witness injustice. We can witness evil, injustice, and oppression right here in our own time, our own world, our country, our community. And we are called to make a difference!

May our voices ROAR,
using whatever influence
and resources and power
God has given us to speak
for those who cannot speak for themselves.

May our actions ROAR,
accepting the freedom and power
God has given us
to actively and boldly resist evil,
injustice, and oppression,
in whatever forms they present themselves!

May our lives
positively ROAR
with God’s grace and love!

 

Posted in Pondering Scripture | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pockets

A haiku for today,
when I could not find a place to stash my office keys…

Suits are requisite.
And, yet, I am a woman.
I have no pockets.

#clergygirl
#pocketsforall

In the name of all that is holy…
PLEASE explain to me why women’s suits do not have pockets?

🙄

Posted in Random Thoughts | 2 Comments

The Rock

My name is Simōn Petros… the “Rock.”

No, not your modern Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. (Although I am a fan.) No. I’m the original Rock. That’s me: disciple of Jesus, Simōn Petros. Simon Peter.

But that wasn’t always my name. Until just a few years ago, I was known as Simōn Bariōna: Simon, Son of Jonah. It was Jesus who gave me my new name.

He gave it to me after I answered a question. It was a question much discussed among those of us who had left it all to follow Jesus. It was a question I had wrestled with many times in the middle of the night as I watched the stars cross the heavens above. It was a question I had asked myself whenever I watched Jesus heal someone sick, when I witnessed him reaching out with compassion to people who were hurting, when I heard him talk about scripture with such passion and authority and clarity. Over and over again, I asked myself…

“Who is this man?”

Then, one day, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee where I used to fish, Jesus himself asked all of us the very question that had been burning in our hearts for so long:

“Who do you say that I am?”

Before I could stop myself, the answer leapt from my throat: “You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God!”

It’s as if that answer had been laying within me, all that time, as I struggled to make sense of what I was seeing, what I was learning, as I walked alongside this man who had called me to follow him. I didn’t know it, but the answer was already there.

I mean, who else could he be? This man of such power, such authority, such grace and love and joy. Who else could he be?

“You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God!”

As I said this, Jesus looked into my eyes, and smiled. “Blessed are you, Simōn Bariōna,” he said, “for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter — Petros — and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Whoa! Seriously! On this — on this Rock — he was planning to build his community of believers. On this Rock! Me! Suddenly, I could see it! Me, standing by his side, his right-hand-man as he took his position of power in Jerusalem, as he showed the world what he was capable of. This man, this Christ, the Messiah. We had been waiting for him for so long! And I was to be with him, at his side, for it all!

Simōn Petros
that’s pretty awesome,
I thought.

But things took a weird turn almost immediately after that. Looking back now, I think Jesus had been waiting for one of us to say out loud what we had been thinking: that he was the Messiah.

Because after that, he started talking about how he was going to Jerusalem to suffer and die.

I have to tell you, that was not what I expected. I mean, what would be the point of it? What was the point of having all that knowledge and power and ability, just to go to the Holy City… to die?

No. Just no. He couldn’t mean it. He was so powerful, so awe-inspiring. I had seen him heal people who had been desperately sick for years. I had stood with him as he confounded the snooty intellectuals who tried to trick him. I had witnessed miracles.

What would be the point?

“Get behind me, Satan!” Jesus said. “You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Jesus… he actually called me Satan! Just hold on a second! I thought I was the Rock upon which Jesus’ followers would be built. Now… now I was the devil, the adversary, the tempter. All because I didn’t want this future that Jesus was laying in front of us. It didn’t make sense! A future of confusion and despair. A future without Jesus.

No. No! I didn’t care. I meant what I said. He was the Christ, the Messiah. And I had been waiting my whole life for him. My parents, their parents, their parents… all waiting for him. And he was here. And I… I was a part of it all.

I. Was. The. Rock.

But then…
Jerusalem.

We went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover together. That Sunday, as we entered the city, people placed their cloaks on the road in front of him, they waved palm branches as a sign of victory, they welcomed him.

But then everything he said would happen… it happened.

He was torn from us. He was taken to trial in front of the elders of our faith. And he suffered. Oh, he suffered. I don’t know what you’ve all heard, but I was there. I had, you could say, a front row seat to it all. Not many of us were able to get in to the chief priest’s courtyard that night, but John got me in. And I heard, right there, all about what had happened.

I can’t tell you, there are no adequate words to explain to you, how terrible that night was. I was so confused, so terrified. I didn’t understand what was happening, I didn’t understand how this had happened! Jesus — this amazing man, this Christ, my Messiah — was being tried as a criminal.

That hit me. A criminal. And I… I was guilty by association. If they found him guilty, what was to keep them from taking me next?

Hear me: I am not proud of what did, of how I acted. I was the Rock. And, that night, the rock shattered. Three times as I stood in that courtyard — a short walking distance between me and the cell where Jesus was being held — three times I was asked if I knew him.

And I denied it.
Three times.

I, Simōn Petros, who had been so excited to stand by Jesus’ side as he took power… I denied even knowing him.

I did not stand by him.
I was too afraid.
And I am so
so
so
sorry.

You, sitting in this sanctuary this morning, you know the story. That mockery of a court, they convicted him. Innocent of anything but stirring up within his followers a desire for the truth. Kind, loving, compassionate, brilliant. He who healed, who taught, who saved us and loved us and challenged us: they convicted him. They hung him on a cross… until he died.

I heard that his body had been taken down from the cross. I heard, because I was too ashamed, too afraid to be there when it happened. I wasn’t there when they took down his broken body, when they placed it in the tomb, when they rolled the stone in place. I wasn’t there.

Some “Rock”
I turned out to be.

Those of us who were still in Jerusalem gathered together that weekend. We huddled together in a room in the city. We were afraid to venture outdoors. Because, who knows what awaited us out there? Were we next for the cross? We stayed inside.

But there was a small group of women, all followers of Jesus along with us, who mastered their fears, and went out. By that time it was very, very early on Sunday morning, and the Sabbath was over. By Law they were now permitted to finish the burial process for Jesus.

I could have gone with them.
I could have done it.
Could have gone to offer him
one last act of love.
But I didn’t.
I didn’t.

They came back with the most extraordinary story! They had seen Jesus. Not Jesus’ body, but actually, really Jesus! Walking around, talking with them, telling them not to be afraid. Jesus.

John and I leapt up, threw open the door to the room where we had been hiding, and we ran. We ran and ran. I felt as though there was something drawing me, pulling me, making me run faster and faster and faster toward that tomb.

But…
When we arrived…
there was
nothing.

No body.
No Jesus.
Nothing.

John and I walked together back to Jerusalem. Back to that room where the rest of our friends were waiting for news. We walked… slowly. We didn’t speak. After all, what was there to say?

Back in that room with our friends, our fellow followers of Jesus, who had been killed: shut away from the world, we sat together. In confusion. In grief. In uncertainty.

Then…
suddenly…
he was there.

He was there with us. Jesus! There, in that room, with the door locked and barred, with us hiding away inside, terrified and uncertain:

He. Was. There.
With us.

Over those next few days, I tried — best I could — to wrap my head around the fact – the undeniable fact — that he was not lying forgotten in a borrowed tomb outside the city of Jerusalem, but was with us. Alive!

All we had seen, all we had learned, all we had experienced: what did it all mean? And what would we do now?

We couldn’t stay in Jerusalem. Things were so tense there, so dangerous still. So we went back to where we came from. I went back — along with Thomas, Nathanael, James, John, and a few others — we went back to the very place where Jesus had first called me: the Sea of Galilee.

I don’t know if you know… but I used to be a fisherman. It was my business, my livelihood. I have fished that sea all of my life. I supported my family, my wife’s family, on the fish I brought back from that beautiful sea. It has been a place of comfort, of familiarity, all of my life. So… we went back.

Remember: we were restless, we were unsure. With anxiety and adrenaline burning within us, as the sun went down over the sea, I took my friends out on my boat to fish.

I told you, I am a life-long fisherman. I know those waters. I didn’t need any of your new-fangled GPS devices, chart plotters, or fish-finder sonars. I just knew where to catch fish. My father had taught me. His father had taught him. Down through the centuries, we were fishermen. So I took my friends out into my boat to fish. To take our minds off of the confusion of all that was happening.

Because there is so much
that I did not know right then…
but I knew these waters.

But that night,
we caught…
nothing.

Tired, smelly, bone-exhausted, we came back to shore early the next morning. As we came closer to the shore, we could see the light of a fire on the rocky beach.

Then we heard a voice call through the lightening skies: “Children, have you caught any fish?”

“Children,” that voice said. Children. Paidia, the voice said. Little children, infants, young sons and daughters.

I should have known.
I should have known right then.
But I didn’t.
Not yet.

“Children, have you caught any fish?”
“No!” we responded.
“Throw your net on the right-hand side of the boat!”

We did. Tired as we were, we threw that net over the starboard side of the boat. We cast that net wide, and watched it, in the morning light of the sun, sinking down, drawing low under the surface of the water.

Then…

The boat tugged to starboard. In our feet, we felt the boat lean to the right, saw the ropes of the net tighten, then strain, then the boat tilted, water spilling in over the side. Looking over the side, we could see fish — so many fish — flapping madly in that net suspended below our boat. We could not pull it in.

I looked back to the shore, where that light from a campfire glowed, where that voice had come from, and… I knew.

And… John whispered with a sound of awe:
“It is the Lord.”

I grabbed my tunic, threw it on, and jumped over the side of the boat toward the water. With every stroke of my arms as I swam toward shore, I thought: “He is here! Oh, my Lord… He is here!”

I actually made it to shore before the boat did. I have no idea how I managed that, but that voice called out again as I touched the shore, saying, “Bring me some of the fish you’ve just caught.”

By then, my other friends had anchored out, just a bit off the beach. I waded back out, and took some of the fish they had already counted out. We had caught 153 large fish in that net, I would later find out. The largest single catch of my life.

But in that moment,
I could not have cared less.

Because… Jesus was waiting for me. 
For us.
He. Was. Here.

And our Savior, our Christ, our Messiah, for whom generations of our families had been waiting, this Rescuer, Redeemer, this Son of the Most High God…

He made us breakfast.

He fed us, tired and hungry and bone-exhausted. He fed us bread and fish. Then he asked me the strangest question:

“Do you love me?”

Do you love me? Of course I loved him! I gave up everything — home, family, job, reputation — everything to follow you, I thought. Of course I love you!

He responded: “Then feed my lambs.”

I thought that finished the discussion. I really did. But then he asked again: “Do you love me?”

My heart hurt, as suddenly I remembered standing in that courtyard in Jerusalem, 70 miles and seemingly a lifetime away, listening to the rooster crow as the sun began to rise the morning as Jesus was held in that prison, awaiting executing.

I remembered how my heart hurt then, how frightened I had been, how uncertain. And I answered his question: “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

“Then take care of my sheep,” he said.

But, even then, Jesus wasn’t finished with me. He drew breath to speak… and I knew what was coming. The spirit within me cringed as he asked a third time:

“Do you love me?”

I answered his question, one last time: “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”

“Then feed my sheep,” was his response.

That…
That is when it hit me.

Just days before, standing in the courtyard of the Chief Priests’ house as Jesus was humiliated, as he suffered, three times — three times — I had denied knowing him.

And here, on the shores of the sea that I loved, where he had called me, the Savior I followed had given me the opportunity to declare, out loud, three times, with that same voice that had betrayed him… to declare that I loved Jesus.

And, three times, Jesus had given me the command, the order, the opportunity to show him, to demonstrate to him the depth and seriousness of that love.

By this:
by caring for,
by feeding
his flock.

By giving of myself
out of love
in the same way
Jesus gave of himself
for us.

You and I, we’ve never met face to face. You live two thousand years in my future. But I pray that you, this morning, would know, that you would understand, that this same Jesus who called me by the shores of the Sea of Galilee, this same Jesus who I followed across hundreds of miles, this same Jesus who taught and healed and suffered and died… and who came back to us…

This same Jesus taught
and healed and suffered
and died
and came back …
for you.

It’s not an easy question… but it is the most important one of your life.

My brothers and sisters across the miles and the centuries… as each of us gathered here this beautiful morning… Jesus asks you:

“Do you love me?”
“Then take care of my sheep.”

 

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Salsa Recipe. (Really!)

IMG_3032

Now… for something COMPLETELY different.

[Sorry, but nothing remotely theological here.]

It’s been a heck of a week, so my husband Chuck and I took the evening off to relax. Over the past year, we’ve been experimenting with improving our cooking skills, stretching our comfort zone with recipes and experiments (some failed, some ah-may-zing). We’ve tried + modified many recipes…

and this, by far, is our favorite! We make it at least once each week!

So, tonight…
just for fun…
from the Kitchen of Hedy + Chuck…

CASA COLLVER SALSA

You’ll need:

  • Two pounds regular plain ole tomatoes, nothing fancy (Chuck’s description) – about 4 tomatoes
  • Two jalapeño peppers
  • One red (or yellow or orange) pepper
  • One medium white onion
  • Three cloves garlic
  • Safflower oil
  • 1 cup of chicken broth (we use “Kitchen Accomplice” reduced sodium chicken broth concentrate with water) — Chuck says you get bonus points if you use homemade chicken broth … I don’t need the bonus points right now, so: concentrate!
  • Salt
  • Pot for boiling stuff
  • Large frying pan for cooking stuff

Boil tomatoes, jalapeños, and garlic in pot with water. (How else to boil them other than in water? Don’t ask me. I’m still new at this!) Bring to boil, covered, but ajar, then reduce heat until just bubbling, about medium, for about 15-18 minutes.

Slice off about 1/4 cup of the onion, and put in blender. Do NOT slice off your finger, just the onion. (Not that I’ve done that. Just saying.) Chop in blender (setting 2 on our blender). Leave it in blender, waiting for the other stuff to be added.

While the other stuff is boiling away (bubbling away) on the stovetop, move to your cutting board. Dice the red pepper (or yellow or orange) and place in a bowl. Dice onion to be about the same amount as the diced pepper, and put in bowl.

By now, the stewed tomatoes, jalapeños, and garlic should be ready. (I’m a slow chopper, so maybe you’ll have time to read a book, grab a glass of wine, whatever.) Use slotted spoon to put the tomatoes and garlic in blender with the 1/4 cup of now chopped onion. Put the jalapeños on the cutting board. Remove the stems from both. For one jalapeño, seed to your level of spicy-ness (Chuck likes all the seeds in, I’m wimpier, so we compromise with a half-seeded jalapeño). Place the jalapeño and seeds in the blender with the tomatoes, garlic, and onion. Add a a tablespoon of salt to the blender. (These are basically stewed tomatoes, so the salt cuts the super-acidity). Then… purée!

When you remove the boiling pot (at medium), don’t turn the heat off. Just put the frying pan right on it. Put in roughly 3 tablespoons of safflower oil. Let the oil get hot, then pour in the purée. Careful! It’ll splutter! Stir, cover ajar, cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Then, after 5-8 minutes, add the chicken broth. Stir, cover ajar, cook for another 10 minutes or so, stirring from time to time.

While this is all bubbling away merrily on your stovetop, go back to your cutting board, where that last lonely jalapeño is pondering its fate. Seed the jalapeño (if you’re a glutton for punishment, leave the seeds in!), dice finely, and place in the bowl with the diced red pepper (or yellow or orange) and the diced onion.

The stuff in the frying pan has been cooking for 10 minutes now (or so). Add the pepper, onion, and jalapeño to the mix. Stir, cover ajar, cook for another 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, and breathing in deeply the absolutely fabulous smell emanating from your kitchen.

Chuck: “Now, c’mon, you KNOW what salsa looks like when it’s done. Apply that knowledge… and you’re done. Maybe test with a teaspoon, and add more salt if needed.”

Me: “Then… while it’s still piping hot, test with a chip. And another chip. And one more, because you need to be sure you’ve gotten it right.”

Enjoy!!!!

 

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Fear, Forgetfulness, & Faith

As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. As he entered a village there, ten men with leprosy stood at a distance, crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy. One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”
— Luke 17:11-19 (New Living Translation)

In the Holy Land, there are many biblically significant sites to visit. In Jerusalem alone, there are so many, including, but not limited to: St. Anne’s, the church next to the Pools of Bethesda. Dominus Flevit Church, on the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem, where Jesus wept before entering the Holy City. In that teardrop-shaped church, you can look through the Sanctuary window across the Kidron Valley, to see the old city of Jerusalem.

The Church of All Nations at the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed on the night he was arrested. St. Peter in Gallicantu, a church built over the prison where Jesus was held, and where his friend Peter denied three times that he knew Jesus. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built over the rock of Calvary, where Jesus was crucified.

There are beautiful churches all around the land, such as: the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem; the Basilica of the Annunciation and St. Gabriel’s Church in Nazareth.

Off the beaten track, though, there is a seldom-visited church in the Palestinian town of Burqin in the West Bank.

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Burqin is not a thriving metropolis like Jerusalem. You can see it there, the red pointer. Almost directly south of it, at the very bottom of the frame, you can see Jerusalem. At the top, directly north of Burqin, is Nazareth in Galilee. There are under 6,000 people living there, the majority of them Muslim.

But there is a small community of Christian families, about 75 people, who can trace their ancestors back before the time of Jesus. Each Sunday they gather to worship at their church, known as the Church of the Ten Lepers.

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If you were sitting in their Sanctuary on a Sunday morning, in the pews with the worshipping community of Burqin, this is what you would see in front of you.

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It’s a very small church, with just enough room for the congregation to sit closely together on the wooden benches. The wall of twelve hand-painted icons in frames above the priest’s doorways reflect different scenes from the life of Jesus.

The first known church on this site was built in the 4th century. Local Burqin tradition tells us that that early church was built at the direction of the Empress Helena.

Helena was the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, who legalized Christianity in 313AD with his Edict of Milan. His mother’s deep faith had a great deal to do with this world-changing decision.

Toward the end of her life, we know that Helena took a pilgrimage through the Holy Land, and she is responsible for the initial preservation of many holy sites. When she came to the town of Burqin, she commanded that a church be erected to remember Jesus’ healing the ten lepers who encountered there.

Again, if you were seated in that small Sanctuary on a Sunday morning like this, looking at the icon wall, as beautiful as they are, your eyes might actually be drawn to what you could see off to your right.

You would see there a roughly hewn space, with unfinished and rough stone walls. In the middle of that space is a baptismal font, covered with a red and gold cloth.

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Because of its remote location, this church in Burqin escaped the large-scale destruction of churches by invaders over the centuries. Additional structures were built around Helena’s church, but the surviving original church, which included this room you see here, is one of the ten oldest churches in the world.

If you look closely toward the top of this picture, behind the hanging lantern, a large hole. This hole in the ceiling would have lead up to the surface of the hill above.

This room was once an old Roman cistern, a placing for storing water. In the years since it had been dug out, it had fallen into disuse, and was used instead as a living space, separated, away from the world, for ten lepers, cast off from society. One wall of the cistern was removed to open it up, and the sanctuary was built next to it.

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Can you imagine living there? With your only source of light and air coming through that hole in the roof. A hole that would enable you to get in and out, but would also let in the rain, the cold.

Can you imagine what it would have been like? Ten people living there together, closely packed in that dark, damp, depressing place. This was the home for those ten people afflicted with a disease so terrifying, so disfiguring, that they were rejected by their family of faith, by their own families, by their community.

This terrible disease, caused by a bacterial infection, not only robbed them of their health; it disfigured them, made them objects of fear and ridicule. It stole from them their community and their ability to care for themselves.

It is no wonder that, when they hear that the miracle-worker Jesus is walking by, on his way to far-off Jerusalem, they cry out to Jesus, “Master, have mercy on us!”

Have mercy on us.
Have compassion.
Look at us, see us, care for us.
Help us.

And Jesus does. He has mercy on them. He looks at them, seeing not their disease, but seeing children beloved of God.

These desperate people, rejected and scorned, living forgotten in their dark oubliette of a cistern, Jesus has compassion for them, and he offers them the mercy for which they are begging.

“Go,” he says. “Go show yourselves to the priests.”

The priests were the ones who would have declared them unclean at the beginning stages of their leprosy. The priests would have provided the diagnosis, would have cast them out of the faith community. And they are the ones who can proclaim them cured and welcome them back in. It makes complete sense that Jesus would command them to show themselves to the priests.

And it also makes sense that they, hearing Jesus say these words, would have understood exactly what he meant: they were going to be made whole again.

And they take off at a run.

We don’t know how far along their journey it is that the healing takes place. Did one of them turn to another, and see that the lesions had disappeared, that the skin was now smooth and unblemished? Did they then look down at their own hands, previously rotting-away stumps, now with fully extendable fingers. Did they feel the healing in their eyes, as their vision strengthened, and they could see the road in front of them clearly for the first time in years?

We don’t know when it happened, but we know it did happen. And, no doubt, there was joy and praise ringing from their throats and tears streaming down their faces as they ran to show the priests what had happened.

Then… one of those men stopped. He watched as his fellow sufferers ran on. And he turned back. He went back to the place of his shame, his alienation, now the place of his healing.

He went back to give thanks to the one who had healed him. He falls at Jesus’ feet, pressing his face to the ground, and cries out: “Praise God!”

Jesus looks down at this man, and asks a question of those around him: “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?”

And then he says to the man: “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”

This story is often told as kind of a cautionary tale about remembering to give thanks. We’re reminded that 90% of those Jesus healed at Burqin that day ran off without even a “Hey, thanks!” to Jesus. We’re told that we should be more like that one, lone man who returned, as an afterthought, yes, but who returned to give thanks to the man whose power had healed him. We need to be more aware of the ways God is working in our lives, and to be grateful for it all.

And that is absolutely true. Living lives of profound gratitude to our God is a fundamental lesson of this story. No doubt about it.

But there is a detail here that makes it about even more than simple thanksgiving.

We’re told that this man is a Samaritan. In our translation of the passage, Jesus calls him a “foreigner.” Allogenés: a person from another nation. We can gather from this that the nine other men — still running full tilt toward the priests who can declare them healed — those men were all likely Jewish. But this man is not.

Sometimes you’ll hear this story used as a condemnation of those nine ungrateful men. They violated the rule our Mamas taught us:

Say thank you.
Be polite.
Show gratitude.

But remember: they are just doing what Jesus told them to do! Jesus told them to go show themselves to the priests, and that is exactly what they’re doing. Showing their thanksgiving through their joyful obedience.

So, why does the Samaritan come back?

As a Samaritan, he was already outside the purview of the priests. He wouldn’t have worshipping in the Temple or the local synagogues. He wouldn’t have gone to the priests for admittance back into the Jewish community, because he wasn’t a part of the community to begin with. So although he starts out automatically with the others, following Jesus’ orders, he stops and comes back.

And seeing him lying at his feet, Jesus gives him something that he did not offer the others. In addition to that physical healing, he says, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”

Jesus uses a different word for healing here. And it’s a really important one: sózó. It means to be delivered from danger, to be rescued, to be taken to a place of safety. It’s the foundation of the word Savior.

This man, the only one who came back to thank Jesus, who shows his faith in his healer by throwing himself to the ground and crying out “Praise God!” … this man is offered salvation through his faith.

As I sat in that little sanctuary in the Church of the Ten Lepers, as I stood in the middle of that cistern, I thought about how easy it is for people of faith to lose track of what is ultimately important.

It is easy for us to be deeply thankful for what we have, but forget all about the One who has given it all to us. It is easy for us to sing out with joy for healing, but not lay our lives down at the foot of the Healer.

Sometimes it takes an outsider’s perspective to help us see the danger in that.

The Samaritan wasn’t looking for human recognition of his healing. He was looking to praise the one who had given him that healing.

Those nine men did nothing actually wrong in racing off to the synagogue to be declared healed and returned to membership in the community. It was, after all, exactly what Jesus told them to do.

The error was in seeking first the approval, the acceptance of human beings. In seeking first the human acknowledgement of this miraculous healing.

Those nine men were deeply grateful for the gift they had been given. They knew what it meant for their lives, and they could not wait for it all to begin.

And that is completely, totally, utterly understandable.

But in their hurry to run toward that future, they literally turned their backs on the one who made that future possible, taking off without even a glance in the rear-view mirror.

My prayer for us this day, this Lent, is that we would not make that same mistake in our lives.

Instead, may we, like the Samaritan man, see the ways God is powerfully at work in our lives — the ways God is drawing us closer to God’s love, the ways God is healing us and guiding us and calling us and saving us — and that we would, like that man, lay our entire lives in front of Jesus, with hearts full of gratitude, crying out with full-throated voices:

“Praise God!”

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Strengthened by Diversity

Revelation 7:9-12 (New Living Translation)
After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. And they were shouting with a great roar, “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living beings. And they fell before the throne with their faces to the ground and worshiped God. They sang, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength belong to our God forever and ever! Amen.”


No matter how many times I watch the video of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I have been to the mountaintop” speech, no matter how many times I read the text, I cry.

Every. Single. Time.

Because it breaks my heart to hear Dr. King talking about seeing the Promised Land, but knowing that he might not arrive there himself. Just hours after his final speech was filmed, he was shot while standing on the balcony of his hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee.

But, even knowing all that, I still find it such a powerful image: Dr. King, standing on the mountaintop like Moses, looking over into the Promised Land, seeing the potential and the beauty and the sheer loveliness of freedom and equality for all. I love that image, the mountaintop.

Have you ever been to the top of a mountain? There’s a mountain I love in Maine: Mount Agamenticus. That’s really hard to say, so the locals just call it “Mount A.” It’s not a long hike, and you can actually drive almost to the top of it, but from the peak, it is an amazing view. Green fields below, small towns dotting the landscape, the Atlantic Ocean a strip of blue-gray on the far eastern horizon.

Being up on a mountain gives you a very different perspective on the land around you than when you’re doing in the midst of it all. There is a feeling of peace that comes with that lofty perspective, looking so much farther into the distance than we usually do.

The last time I was up there, quite a while back now, I was standing on a rock outcropping amongst tall trees, looking down the mountainside, with a sense of awe at the beauty before me, and I thought, “How amazing it would be to be able to bottle this feeling, this perspective, and to take it with me when I head back down.”

Because, sadly, we can’t stay on the mountaintop forever.

I was talking with someone the other day about the deep sadness that so many people report feeling about the state of our world right now. We talked about what is basically the opposite of the “mountaintop” experience — the claustrophobic, frightening feeling of being down in a tight valley, hemmed in on all sides.

It happens on a personal level, with family dysfunction, challenges at work, disagreements with a spouse, addictions, illness (your own or someone you love), grief over a devastating loss.

It also happens in a culture, when it feels like the world is pressing in on us, holding us down with all of its distrust and fear and violence and anger.

This friend and I talked about how when you’re in those moments, it feels like you will never get out of the valley. You’ll never be freed of those fears and doubts and pain. This valley, it is all that there is. End of story.

But as Christ-followers we know that the valley never — never! — has the final word. Just as the story of Jesus did not conclude with his death on the cross, or his being placed in the tomb, so our story — as individuals, as a community, and as a world — does not end in a valley of confusion and chaos. It does not.

Coming out of the valley, standing on the mountaintop, we can see the Promised Land. We can see a vision of the world that Jesus came to save, full of people beloved by the God who created them.

But the “valleys,” the “downs” we experience are not necessarily evil. Because it is only when we’re in the valley that we can truly understand what needs to change.

In that final speech of his life, Dr. King said this: “… I’m happy to live in this period… We have been forced to a point where we’re going to have to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to grapple with through history, but the demands didn’t force them to do it. Survival demands that we grapple with them. Men, for years now, have been talking about war and peace. But now, no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it’s nonviolence or nonexistence.”

Standing on that metaphorical mountaintop, Dr. King saw a vision of a world where all people were loved and accepted, where differences did not cause fear.

One of the ways we can capture a vision of the future, is simply this: by taking a good, hard look around our world, and recognizing the places that are not in line with what we learn from the life, teaching, sacrifice, and resurrection of Jesus. We look at those places, we name them, and then we name their opposite.

Where we see hatred, the Promised Land is love.
Where we see corruption, the Promised Land is justice.
Where we see distrust, the Promised Land is reconciliation.
Where we see judgment, the Promised Land is compassion.
Where we see abuse, the Promised Land is freedom.

When you see something that makes your blood boil, your spirit cringe, name what it is that has made you so angry. And then name its opposite, as well. That is a part of the Promised Land.

And when we have been to the mountaintop, when we have scanned the horizon and have seen the Promised Land, we know the direction we need to head to reach that world of hope.

One of the “mountaintop experiences” of my life happens just about every Sunday at the church I serve at Plantation United Methodist Church. It happens in meetings and events and classes. It happens in the church office and in counseling sessions and on our schools’ playgrounds. In other words, it happens quite often.

That mountaintop for me,
where I can look into the future with hope,
comes from looking at the faces
that make up this family of faith.

You see, the people of Plantation UMC have been gathered in from across our world, from the Caribbean, Europe, South and North America, Africa, Australia, Asia. Native-born Americans and immigrants. Different accents and skin color and hair texture and customs.

Gathered in from across the political spectrum, republican and democrat, conservative and liberal, politically active and politically ambivalent.

Gathered in from across the theological spectrum, as well. Traditionalists and progressives, conservative and reformist. Life-long Methodists, brand new Christians, spiritual but not religious.

The scripture we used in our services this morning from the Book of Revelation this morning said this: “… I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands.”

Every nation and tribe and people and language.
Standing on the particular mountaintop that is
the pulpit from which I am privileged to preach,
I can see a glimpse of the beauty
and joy of the Promised Land.

I love what the people of Plantation have built over the years, and I never want us to take it for granted. What happens in worship and in service, it is still the exception in our world, not the norm. Even in the community directly around us, it is not the norm. And so this beautiful community of believers — strong in unity because of our diversity — I believe we have something powerful to offer to the people around us.

From that last message of Dr. King again:

“It’s all right to talk about ‘long white robes over yonder,’ in all of its symbolism. But ultimately people want some suits and dresses and shoes to wear down here. It’s all right to talk about ‘streets flowing with milk and honey,’ but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can’t eat three square meals a day. It’s all right to talk about the new Jerusalem, but, one day, God’s preacher must talk about the New York, the new Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis, Tennessee. This is what we have to do.”

God’s promise is not just for us, some day, by-and-by when we’re in heaven. God’s promise is meant to make a difference here and now. For the people right here, around us in Plantation. In Tamarac. In Sunrise and Lauderhill and Fort Lauderdale and Davie. Wherever you find yourself as you read these words… God’s promise is meant for that town or city.

We are called to be God’s workers
right in the community
in which God has placed us.

Yes, I have been to the mountaintop, many times, and have seen the Promised Land of God’s people coming together in unity, learning from our differences.

But… I have also been to the deep, dark valley where the vision of that Promised Land is occluded and where it seems so very, very far away.

We are in a valley time right now in our country. A time when diversity and differences are feared instead of celebrated. A time when instead of “us together” it is “us” against “them.”

Conservatives VS Liberals
Black VS White
Republican VS Democrats
Straight VS LGBTQ
Native-born Americans VS Immigrants
Rich VS Poor
President-Trump Supporters VS President-Trump Opponents

I could go on.
But you get my point.

I am not afraid of conflict. That is, I am not afraid of healthy conflict: disagreements of understanding which are worked out in respect and love and compassion for each other. Because of our diversity, because of the large number of deeply held convictions among us here, we will have conflict. It’s inevitable. And… you ready for this? It’s not just inevitable. It’s necessary.

Without conflict, without differences, without diversity, we will never be able to move from where we are now. Surrounded only by people who look like us, think like us, live like us, we become stagnant, proud, and self-satisfied.

Conflict — our beliefs, our convictions being challenged and pushed in a new direction — conflict opens our spirits and minds to new ways of thinking. It helps us to see more clearly what the Promised Land might look like. A Promised Land with room not just for you or for me, but for all of God’s children.

Galatians, chapter 3, verses 26-29:
For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.”

Standing on the mountaintop, looking out into the future, we can see the Promised Land. From the view on the mountaintop, we can see a beautiful vision of the wild, wide diversity of God’s people, working together, challenging each other, unafraid of conflict, rejoicing in God’s guidance, supporting each other, embracing our differences in a bond of unity only possible in God’s love.

One last word from Dr. King:
“Let us rise up [this day] with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation. And I want to thank God, once more, for allowing me to be here with you.”

Thanks be to God.
And amen!

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Fisher Price Jesus

My niece Emma was born after I escaped the snowy northeast for the palm tree and stripmall-studded warmth of South Florida. But, through the miracle of the internet, I’ve been able to see her little face and hear her sweet voice just about every week as she’s grown.

I especially love FaceTiming with Emma on Christmas morning. Every year, as the days grow closer, she seems about ready to keel over from anticipation. The snow, the lights, the parties, the tree, and all those presents! From the first moment she learned to spell E‑M-M-A, new presents appearing under the tree became a source of unalloyed joy.

By that wonderful live computer video, I get to “play” with Emma in my mother’s living room. She shows me all her toys, and tells me stories about them. For Christmas many years ago I gave her a Fisher Price nativity set. The cutest little roly poly Mary and Joseph you’ve ever seen, with a little baby Jesus. I love the fact that she and her little brother William still play with the nativity set almost every day. If you look closely at the photo below, there’s Jesus, tucked away in his cradle in the second row.

Emma and Aunt Hedy

Baby Jesus, in his little straw-filled cradle, has been on the little Fisher Price yellow school bus. He has slid down the Hot Wheels race car track. (He doesn’t do too well on the turns.) Baby Jesus has been dunked in a glass of milk (“He’s swimming!” she said excitedly before her Grammie rescued him from the drink).

Over the years, Emma has asked me lots of questions about Baby Jesus:

“Baby Jesus was in his Mommy Mary’s tummy?”
Yes, that’s right. (Well, sort of, I didn’t think it was the right time to correct the biology of that question. She was three.)

“When was Baby Jesus’ birthday?”
We’re not really sure, but we celebrate his birthday on Christmas, December 25th.

“Did Baby Jesus cry a lot?”
We don’t know, but I would guess that he did.
(Her then newborn brother was apparently going through a screaming phase.)

“Did Baby Jesus’ Daddy have to go to work every day?”
Yep! He was a carpenter, which meant he worked with wood to make it into chairs and tables and beds and maybe even built houses. (I didn’t get into the possibility that he might actually have worked with stone instead of wood. Again: she was three.)

Not too long ago, though, she had me stumped. She said, with the sweetness that only a small, adorable, long-eyelashed child can muster:

“Aunt Hedy, this is baby Jesus. 
He’s a little baby. 
But he’s a grown-up, too, right? 
He’s a baby and a grown-up?”

Uh. Okay. … You see, it all happened a long time ago. So, yes. He’s both. And he’s neither.

And, there, in a nutshell, is the weirdness of the Christian calendar.

Poor Jesus. As we approach the end of every year, we wait in anticipation for him to be born. Mary and Joseph yet again make the trek to Bethlehem, even though we know what awaits them there: serious dearth of hospitality, the grudging offer of a backyard animal shelter, the pain of birth so very far from home, a child’s first entry into the world amidst the smell and dirt of a stall.

Then — hurrah! — the angelic choir breaks open the skies to the abject terror of the shepherds minding their own business below. Just a few days later, we celebrate Epiphany with those mysterious travellers from the east, the Magi, showing up with gifts generally considered by mothers everywhere to be fairly useless: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Celebrations ensue, too much eggnog is drunk, family fights break out over politics, Christmas wrapping paper is recycled, and, eventually, all the guests go home.

The next major church-going holiday isn’t until months later: Easter. For the ramp-up to that celebration, we remember how Jesus was betrayed, beaten, mocked, tortured, hung until he died on a cross, and his body respectfully stowed away in a temporary tomb.

Then, in the darkness of Easter morning, to the surprise of his despairing and grieving followers, Jesus is joyfully restored to the world, resurrected. He continues to teach and guide, then is taken up to heaven while his friends watch with gapingly dropped jaws.

A few more months go by, the weather turns cooler, and that resurrected Jesus is back in Mary’s womb, again awaiting birth in that stable in Bethlehem.

Birth … Death … Darkness … Resurrection … Darkness … Birth … and on.

“Aunt Hedy, this is baby Jesus. He’s a little baby. But he’s a grown-up, too, right? He’s a baby and a grown-up?”

Baby Jesus on the Laptop

The lectionary’s calendar of scripture readings for today (December 11th) include these opening verses of Psalm 126:

When the Lord brought back his exiles to Jerusalem,

    it was like a dream!

We were filled with laughter,

    and we sang for joy.

And the other nations said,

   “What amazing things the Lord has done for them.”

Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us!

   What joy!
Restore our fortunes, Lord,

    as streams renew the desert.

Those who plant in tears

    will harvest with shouts of joy.

They weep as they go to plant their seed,
   but they sing as they return with the harvest.

Like our Christian calendar, the psalm begins with joy — worshippers returning to the holy city — then quickly turns to weeping and a need for restoration. But even within that darkness, there is a promise that the weeping will not last, and singing will return.

Joy … Tears … Joy … Weeping … Joy … Tears … and on.

That’s kind of the way it works in life, isn’t it? Not just in the Christian calendar, or in the Psalms, but in our real, walking around, everyday life. In our country, in our world, in our families, in our spirits, we cycle through. We go through times of darkness, times of uncertainty and fear and doubt. We go through times of light, times of clarity and certainty and hope. And back and forth. And forth and back. And back and forth again.

Our cycle of remembrance in the Christian year helps us to acknowledge both the darkness that still swirls around us, but also to recognize that we live in a post-Christmas, post-Easter reality, where God is constantly making things new.

Joy from the tears.
Singing from the weeping.
Light from the darkness.

We remember that on that first Christmas morning, God became one of us, coming right down into our darkness, into our confused, messed-up world. In spite of the consequences of that decision, in spite of all that would happen to Jesus as he lived his too-short decades as a human being. In spite of all that — the birth, the joys, the tears, the weeping, the death — in spite of all that, on Christmas morning, God came down to earth.

This is baby Jesus.
He’s a little baby.
But he’s a grown-up, too.
He’s a baby and a grown-up.

Yes.
Yes, he is.
Thanks be to God.

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