Oahu, January 13

Oahu
Photo by Karen Mechler

To find the sermon for this week, please go to the “Lectionary Sermons” section in the Menu.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unhurried morning

stepping out our door

coffee warming

surf pounding

eyes trained

on the horizon

anticipating surprise

of spout

breach

delight

whales

tasting air

reminding themselves

that they dwell

in the deeps

 

Unearthly noise

breaks the mood

 

MISSILE INBOUND

TAKE SHELTER

 

Disbelief

 

Confusion

 

Disturbance

breaking

the surface

 

Malevolence

invading

questioning

the balance

reaching its

dark

finger

to strum

the cord

between

human

and

human

 

Unexpectedly

it sounds

the eternal

tone,

emits

calm

that holds

tenuous

attentive

 

Eyes trained

on the

horizon

hold images

familial

indelible

 

The moment

passes.

False alarm.

 

But we are

changed

 

The beast

has touched

the depths

 

 

 

The Last–and First–Word

Nativity-2017-1024x649

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”  (Jn 1.1-5)

You may have heard before that “word” in this passage is logos in Greek, which means a lot more than letters strung in order to symbolize an idea.  It is the root word for logic, and so it can be translated as reason or structure or purpose.  If Jesus is the Word sent to us, then he is the divine key that unlocks the very substance of existence itself.  “In him all things hold together,” wrote one of the apostles.  (Col 1.17)

One reason we know that Jesus is eternal with God the creator is that John put it right there in his gospel.  “Without him not one thing came into being.”  So Jesus is not only the Son sent to save us, he is the Alpha and Omega (Rev 22.13).  Every single thing that has ever existed, from the tiny tree frog to the galaxies yet to be discovered, all of it has spun out from the mind and being of Christ who was in on creation.

Something, someone so big cannot be defined in human language.  We have language, and we use language to describe God, but that doesn’t mean God is confined by our lexicon.

I was visiting with a friend recently about her faith, and she told about a recent evening with her husband, when she tried to describe to him the depth of her experience as God’s beloved, and she burst into tears because she couldn’t find the right words.  She still can’t.  She writes and writes about it, but the profound experience itself defies language.

Perhaps you know about that.  You have had moments of holiness that washed over you unbidden.  Somehow you felt connected with everything in the universe…or it was a sense of deep contentment and hope…or you felt forgiven—really forgiven—for the first time…or the love you felt for a child or parent was bigger than you remember feeling before.  You got a glimpse of eternal reality.

Our faith is such a small sampling of the life God has for us.  It comes in words of the creed, words of the Bible, words of our prayers.  Yet these are only door latches just within our reach, handles on a portal to a dimension far beyond our imagining.

Jesus came to us from that divine dimension to tell us there is more.  The life that is truly life, the life God has for us, is rich with beauty and love and belonging.  The ways we pervert that life and obscure the riches are no obstacles for Christ.  He wears his forgiveness on his sleeve and offers his own self to enliven our curiosity and enrich our lives.  He loves us so much!

Words can’t describe it.

And so he became the Word.  A human.  A baby.  He pitched his tent among us as a walking, talking message from the God of the universe that life is meant to be filled with beauty and meaning.  He offered himself on a cross to clear away the layers of guilt and violence and greed that we have allowed to masquerade as life.

The light is coming.  It shines in our darkness.

The Word is coming.  He makes sense out of our confusion.

God’s promise of a Savior is the Word made flesh, the light the darkness cannot overcome.

This is an excerpt of a sermon–The Light and the Word–on my “Lectionary Sermons” page.  You can access it by going to the menu.  

 

For Terry

My friend Terry was a farmer, a man who embodied faith and joy.

Rising early

first thoughts

of tasks

toil

contained in a vessel

of trust

and praise

and thanks

 

Pulling on worn jeans

familiar as the

breakfast

and markets

soft voices

going over the day’s schedule

flexible as farming requires

prayer

intention

a joke or two

a wry acceptance

of what is here

and hope

always embedded

cultivated

as surely as the soil

 

Awakened machine

trained to walk

the uneven ground

to climb the fueled beasts

of burden

and planting

and harvest

hands reaching for controls

that cannot control

the sun

and rain

 

Body fueled

by home cooking

and love

and Spirit force

and legacy

of cherishing the land

and the coaxing

of creatures

to be born

and eat

and grow

as they know to do

 

Body diseased

but never dis-eased

by its betrayal

forced Sabbath

strange gift

opening the heart

to joy

and wonder

healing over with

scar tissue

of trust

 

Father, lover, grandpa, friend

spirit expanded

bursting

the bonds

of this world

the door opens

to Presence

glory

life

wider

deeper

wonder full

 

Beloved whispers from beyond

I am here.

 

Sunday Morning Confession

If you are looking for ideas for this week’s lectionary text, go to the Menu and click on “Lectionary Sermons.”  They appear in order for the current year.  

Folks will come at the appointed hourFall 2015

dutifully, happily

visit a bit, then settle into their familiar pews

expectant, ready for a song, a prayer,

a word or two of inspiration

to nourish their steady faith for a few more days.

Where are the words?

They are tangled up, bound, uneasy,

resistant to casual exploitation.

Feeble, not equal to the task

nor strong enough to emerge

from the morass of questions,

preoccupied with contradictions,

busy elsewhere with tweets and posts and shrillness.

Better to give them a break this once.

Better to ponder the vivacity of the children among us,

the blaze of yellow grass in the ditches,

the relentless, rhythmic caress of the waves on the lakeshore.

Worthy satisfaction for a Sabbath morning.

 

 

 

 

 

Over the Mountain

Sometimes, while writing the weekly sermon, other ideas swirl and prod, but editing is critical, and they don’t make it into the final draft.  Some of them linger.  This is one idea that persisted and emerged in a poem, having pondered Philippians 3:13–“forgetting what lies behind, reaching out for what lies ahead…”

pioneer-women

I rescued

one teacup

to honor

Grandmother

hid it among the quilts

I alone unfold

each night.

The memory

is safe

for now.

 

Her silken hands

handing me

milky tea

veins in relief

tracing the map

of her years

life blood

testifying

that she

is here.

Was there.

 

We will have

a new here.

 

The china

painted peonies

she selected

as a bride

had to go.

The careful wrapping

the harsh warnings

the birthday meals

the thin connection

to the old country

had to go.

 

Shattered

in a ravine

bright treasure

for the crows.

China flowers

among the real,

payment

for carrying

our hope

lightly.

 

Flowers

along the way

anyway

columbine

fireweed

sego lily

 

and the

teacup

snatched

to hold

my grandmother’s

memory

will find

its new place

at the end

of the trail.

Beauty Eclipses the Tension

Eclipse fever cast its own eclipse over the United States this month.  It was cloudy and rainy locally, so the untimely darkness was our only indication of the phenomenon.   Listening to the recordings of people as they experienced the veiling of the sun was enough to bring tears to my eyes.  Their cries of astonishment and delight had me almost as captivated as they were on August 21.

The non-political, non-commercial (mostly), grace-filled moment offered us a brief respite from the tension that persists among us in the U.S. these days.  The tension seems to take on new forms daily, assaulting us from every direction, making us wary and suspicious.  It is relentless and self-energizing, searing us in its heat if we let it get too close for too long.  Is it any surprise, then, that our collective sense of wonder during the eclipse felt like a healing, refreshing breeze?

It reminds me of an incident from a few months ago.  Last winter a friend and I launched a discussion group called “Knock Knock.”  It was an attempt to address emotion-laden political issues with greater care than seems to be the norm in the public square.  We chose guidelines to help us speak and listen to one another with sensitivity and curiosity.  We practiced, we fumbled, we kept at it.  The participants who came timidly at first gained confidence, delighted at the chance to engage in meaningful dialogue that is safe, thoughtful, open.

Our final gathering before the summer hiatus had us listening to a local politician, offering him the opportunity to tell his story beyond issues and votes.  The habit must be hard to break, because the discussion got a little heated.  I realized that I was unprepared for this problem.  How to intervene within the spirit of our principles?

April 2017 rainbowSuddenly someone pointed across the table and blurted, “Look!  A rainbow!”  The wine bar where we gather is entirely made of windows, so there it was, vivid and delicate.  We watched it grow and recede, glow and fade until the colors disappeared.  We oohed and aahed, laughing together at this unexpected gift.

As we returned to our seats, our smiles morphed from awe to merriment, collectively realizing how the rainbow had broken the tension in the room.

We cannot control the skies, nor each other.  We are disappointed often, clouds darkening both our personal and collective horizons.  But once in a while, beauty breaks in to surprise us, unite us, and heal us, if only for a moment.

About “The Gate”

My thoughts on Marie Howe’s poem “The Gate”

“I had no idea that the gate I would step through

to finally enter this world

would be the space my brother’s body made.”

20160919_172125 (2)
September 2016

I feel sometimes as though the gate I step through to see the world is my mother’s smile.  I feel my lips forming her smile and feel my eyes turning into hers, twinkling with a secret knowing.  Other times I find myself crying her tears.  Feeling the pain of loneliness that seems as though she is weeping along with me, in me.  Looking long at someone’s suffering that no one around me notices, allowing the ache to permeate my protective shell and give space to tears.

But her smile.  Winsome, hard-won, given.  It healed me, gave me such hope.  Told me that everything will be all right, for her, for me, for the yet-unborn who will inherit the ghost of a smile that opens a space in the world for them to walk through.