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Category Archives: Devotions/Reflections

Advent JOY

Joy! It can cause us to break out in song and dance, even if no one wishes to hear and see it!
Perhaps, the song goes:

I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy
down in my heart, down in my heart, down in my heart.
I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy,
down in my heart, down in my heart to stay.

Joy is often understood to be a wonderful sense of happiness and pleasure.

It can be easy to have the joy, to hold it in our hearts, and to keep it deep in our hearts when…

  • we are well in mind, body, and soul;
  • we are satisfied in our personal and professional lives; and
  • we have the necessary resources beyond survival enabled to thrive.

It can be easy to be joyful at the sound of amazing news for yourselves and/or our loved ones.

In another words, it is easy to have joy when the pieces of our lives are in their place and all is right.

Unfortunately, it becomes challenging to have, to hold, and to keep said joy in complicated situations that compose our being, our family and friends, our communities, and beyond. Yet, we are encouraged to continue rejoicing in the most complicated situations and darkest moments.

This complicated joy is embodied in the opening chapters of Luke with three canticles (hymns) that rejoice in the Messiah who will bring good news to the oppressed, proclaim liberty to captives and release to the prisoners, tend to the broken-hearted, comfort those who mourn, and announce the forgiveness expected in the ‘Year of the Lord’s Favor’.

And yet, the rejoicing is complicated by social and cultural expectations, the anxieties about the impact of the grand leveling or reversal, and concern about the extremes that those with authority, power, wealth, and privilege will go to prevent said leveling or reversal.

The first canticle is The Magnificat (Luke 1: 46-55). Mary was a young, engaged but unwed, pregnant Israelite girl in first-century Palestine. In the later months of pregnancy, perhaps when Mary’s condition was becoming increasingly noticeable, she traveled to visit her much older cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth is also miraculously pregnant with John the Baptist, who leapt in her womb acknowledging the unborn Christ child. Upon Elizabeth praising Mary for her faith (or trust), she responds in song.

Although we consider The Magnificat to be a joyful song, Mary was arguably not in a joyful space. Unfortunately, Mary would have been in a complicated situation lacking her own control of it, socially shamed and isolated, and burdened not only with the anxiety of motherhood but the motherhood of the Messiah, who was God in human flesh and bone.

The second canticle is Benedictus, or Blessed (Luke 1:68-79). Zechariah was a priest, the husband of Elizabeth, and the father of John the Baptist. He was inspired at the circumcision of John (the Baptist) to give thanks with a grateful heart and song. He was grateful for John being selected as the prophet to prepare the way for the Messiah, but also anxiously reminds God of the promises made. Further, I envision that Zechariah was concerned for the well-being of his son, John, because prophets often have a complicated relationship with political, social, and religious authorities resulting in social isolation, persecution, and death.

The third canticle is ‘Nunc Ditmittis’, or Now You Dismiss (Luke 2: 29-32). Simeon was a devoted man, who had been divinely promised the experience of laying his eyes upon the Messiah, the salvation, of Israel prior to death. Simeon was guided by the Spirit to be present when, per tradition, Jesus was dedicated in the temple at only eight days old. Simeon rejoices about the divine promise kept and the Messiah come, but I envision his heart dropped slightly for the ‘dismissal’ is not simply from the temple but his physical life.

Thus, joy might be less about the pleasure and happiness at the pieces of our lives in their place.

  • Joy is God always and forever active in, among, through, and despite the brokenness and darkness of ourselves, our communities, the nations, and the entire creation.
  • Joy is the ability to recognize Emmanuel, God with us, despite brokenness and darkness.
  • Joy is the dispelling of hopelessness, anxiety, disappointment, and fear ENOUGH to enable our awareness of Emmanuel, God with us.

May we practice said joy and strive to have, hold, and keep it down in our hearts now and forever. Amen.  

Emmanuel, God with us, ease our hopelessness, anxieties, disappointments, and fears enough that we can experience and rejoice in the awareness of your divine presence in, among, through, and despite our brokenness and darkness.

Enable us to have, to hold, and to keep your joy down in our hearts in hope, peace, and love. In the name of your Son, Jesus the Christ. Amen

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2020 in Devotions/Reflections

 

Advent Peace (2020)

Peace. Peace upon all the earth. It sounds idealistic. It seems impossible.

We are often taught to ‘keep the peace’, for example:

  • Don’t cause waves;
  • Don’t rock the boat; and
  • Don’t stir the pot.

Our broken humanity, communities and nations, and entire creation embraces the lie of false and dishonest peace. Dishonest peace proclaims that all unrest, strife, and conflict is unhealthy and devastating; thus, it must be avoided at all costs.

Perhaps, it can be connected to the notion of Pax Romina, or the Peace of Rome, which was maintained by violent suppression at the mere murmur of unrest.

But, this dishonest peace is a significant disservice to all of humanity.

This dishonest peace discourages uncomfortable, challenging but necessary, meaningful conversations.

This dishonest peace discourages the ‘Good Trouble’ caused by John Lewis, the civil rights moment, and the persons who sought and continue to seek reforms establishing equality and equity.

This dishonest peace too often maintains the status quo and its systematic injustices.

This dishonest peace too often protects the privileged while causing harm to the under-privileged.

This dishonest peace too often affords those with authority, power, and wealth opportunities at the expense of those without said authority, power, and wealth.

This is not Advent peace. This is not the peace of Christ.

This is not the peace that surpasses all understanding.

Instead, Isaiah summons us to prepare the way for the Lord, which requires honest peace.

This Isaiah text is a ‘Grand Leveling’, where those in positions of authority, power, wealth, and privilege are humbled while the under-privileged and vulnerable are lifted up.

Honest peace dispels unhealthy, devastating false peace, strife, and conflict through meaningful, respectful dialogue and action resulting in sustainable equality and equity.

In the words of Martin Luther: ‘Peace when possible. Truth at all cost’.

Martin Luther King Jr spoke about the arc of history might be long but it bends in the direction of justice.

Although ‘keeping the [dishonest] peace’ may be more comfortable and secure,
may we seek the honest peace that embraces truth and arcs towards justice through ‘Good Trouble’.
Amen.

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2020 in Devotions/Reflections

 

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Easter Evening on the Road to Emmaus

Please note scripture is posted below.

It is the evening of the Resurrection. Two disciples are traveling the seven miles to Emmaus while processing Jesus’ arrest, passion, crucifixion, and death. They are grieving not only the death of their rabbi (teacher) and beloved friend, but also their hope that Jesus had been the long-awaited Messiah to ‘save us’. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2020 in Devotions/Reflections

 

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Easter Vigil: What? Why?

20 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb… 6Then Simon Peter … went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple … also went in, and he saw and believed; 9for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples returned to their homes.
11But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20: 1-18)

 

The Easter Prayer Vigil is conducted on Saturday evening within darkness, recalling Jesus’ frightened disciples gathered in despair and hidden within a dark room.

However, the Easter Prayer Vigil begins with the blessing and lighting of the (large) paschal candle which symbolizes Jesus’ journey from death into life. This paschal candle will be lit throughout the Easter season and on Sundays with baptisms. The reason is that baptism is our death to sin and the old self, in order to be raised into new life with Christ.

The Easter Prayer Vigil continues Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2020 in Devotions/Reflections

 

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Holy Wednesday: Stump the Rabbi

15Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. 16So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. 17Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” 18But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” 21They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away…
34When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37He said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38This is the greatest and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22: 15-22, 34-40)

After Jesus’ authority is questioned, the religious elite conspire to terminate his popularity, public ministry, and the revolution it was inciting. These religious elite knew that it would require Jesus’ death.

Thus, the Pharisees and Sadducees (religious elite) sought to entrap Jesus in his teaching, in order that he might be arrested, condemned, and crucified per the Roman Empire. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Holy Tuesday: Authority Questioned

23When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” 27So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things. (Matthew 21: 23-27)

After Jesus ‘cleansed’ the temple, it was able to once again be the house of God, a house of prayer. Therefore Jesus, who was the presence of God in flesh and blood, was teaching and healing all who gathered despite the dismay and increasing contempt of the religious elite.

The chief priests and elders were not simply the religious elite, but also the religious authority. Thus, they choose to confront Jesus about his authority to teach and heal. However, their inquiry was founded upon neither the desire for deeper understanding nor innocent curiosity, but rather it was built upon the dangerous cornerstone of jealousy and fear. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Holy Monday: Christ Cleanse Temple

12Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a den of robbers.” 14The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them. 15But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things that he did, and heard the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became angry. (Matthew 21: 12-15)

On Sunday, Jesus was we received in Jerusalem but with shouts of ‘hosanna’, literally ‘save us’. These were shouts of lament to God and hopeful calls for revolution.

But, what did the people expect and hope to be ‘saved’ from?

  • Perhaps, they desired to be rescued from the political system founded upon ‘Pax Romana’ (Peace of Rome). However, this ‘peace’ was enforced through brutal, violent suppression at the mere murmur of unrest.
  • Perhaps, they desired to be rescued from the social burdens of being an oppressed and occupied people, without a land or nation of their own.
  • Perhaps, they desired to be rescued from the depressed socio-economics that results from said political system and social burdens.

And yet, Jesus immediately enters into the temple. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2020 in Devotions/Reflections

 

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