Immediately

Sea of Galilee3rd Sunday after Epiphany

Jonah 3:1-5, 10

1 Corinthians 7:29-31

Mark 1:14-20

Sometimes it takes a lot of time and preparation to do something BIG. But no matter how much preparation one does, no matter how many days, months, or years we might spend getting ready- sooner or later they happen “immediately.” Sooner or later you need to dive into the water.

There are a lot of things to prepare for when you are having a baby. You have about nine months (in Eve’s case it was nine months and ten very long days) to get ready. When Emily and I knew we were going to have a baby we started preparing. We read the parent prep book, What To Expect When You’re Expecting, we set up the crib, we froze about a half dozen meals so we wouldn’t have to cook for a few days after the baby arrived, we installed the car seat, we stockpiled a small mountain of diapers, we made a mobile, and we washed a couple dozen sets of newborn clothes.

Eve was late. We got to the end of nine months and the baby was still not here. We had done all the prep work that we thought we needed to do and we were ready for this baby to arrive. Frankly, we were sick of waiting, so we tried just about every old wife’s tale about inducing labor that we knew. Emily ate spicy foods, we went for long walks, and we drove down the bumpiest roads we could find. Still nothing. Still waiting.

Then, at about three in the morning ten days after our due date, Emily’s water breaks. All of that preparation and waiting was coming to an end and we suddenly felt very rushed. This baby was coming. Yes, we had the better part of a year to prepare, but when Emily went into labor it all felt so… immediate. Continue reading

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Sam and the Troubling, Familiar Voice

SamuelSecond Sunday after Epiphany

1 Samuel 3:1-20

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

John 1:43-51

Samuel receives an unlikely call. He has experiences and responsibilities that are disproportionate to the amount of experience and expertise that he possesses. This is a strange, but inspiring story by many counts.

Our story starts with Sam’s to-be parents- Hannah and Elkanah. They have been trying to have a child for years and years. This is what Hannah desires more than anything else. She has felt the pain of infertile parents throughout history and today. In her grief, she goes to the Temple and prays to God for a son. She makes a bargain with God saying, “If you give me a child, I will let you take the child for your own service. The child will work in the Temple for the rest of their life.” A miracle happens and Hannah has a son, Samuel, whose name means “God hears.” Hannah keeps her promise and the boy spends the rest of his life working in the Temple overseeing sacrifices, cleaning up after sacrifices, offering prayers, and other priestly duties.

Hannah has high hopes for her son. She sings a prayer to God and wishes that the child would share in God’s zeal for justice and care. She sings to the God who “raises up the poor from the dust,” who “guards God’s faithful ones,” and who cuts off the wicked. Continue reading

Swept Up By the Waters of Baptism

Baptism of our Lord B

Genesis 1:1-5

Acts 19:1-7

Mark 1:4-11

Caesarea

Baptism means a lot of things. It is an act of washing away our sins. It is a sharing in the death and resurrection of Christ- a guarantee of being raised to new life just as Christ was raised to new life. It is a birth into the Christian community of faith. But is also something that I feel we don’t give a lot of attention. In it, we receive the Holy Spirit. Paul asks the question to a couple of disciples, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit?” They answer quite inarticulately, “Huh? The what now?” I sometimes feel that I might respond the same way when trying to figure out what the Holy Spirit is and does and maybe you do too. Continue reading

Us and Them and God in Between

Rubens- Adoration of the Magi
Rubens- Adoration of the Magi

Imagine that at the next Worship and Music Committee meeting, I and the other members get together and decide to include astrology into our services. Every Sunday we will read everyone’s horoscopes. I thought I would give a little taste of what this would be like by including the horoscopes of a couple of signs for 2015.

Virgo: Expect opportunities and congenial people around you from January 1st, as your ruling planet Mercury is in Capricorn along with the Sun, Venus, and Pluto. Capricorn is an Earth Sign and very compatible with you, Virgo.

Sagittarius: Be well, active, and avoid too many extra calories too often, however yummy. This could be an ongoing challenge after early April, when Jupiter’s retrograde ends.

What do you think? Chances are that if you find value in gathering together for worship at church, you would not find this addition to be very helpful or good. We gather together each week around the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion and God’s Word in preaching and Scripture. These are the “means of grace” as our church calls it. This means that we recognize God’s Word and Sacraments to be the explicit, consistent, and trustworthy way by which we experience the grace and love of God. Horoscope readings and astrology did not make it onto that list.

I hope that this playful re-imagining of worship practices give you a sense for how strange and unexpected the appearance of the Magi must have been for faithful Jews and Jewish Christians of the first century. Imagine being one of the pious and faithful Jewish scribes or priests in Jerusalem when the Magi show up on your doorstep saying that know when the Messiah is to be born. These are Gentiles- non-Jews. They are magicians and astrologers. They learned of the Messiah’s appearance through looking at the stars- not careful reading of Scripture, a vision from the God of Abraham, or the collected wisdom of Jewish elders. They were outsiders in every aspect and on top of that they were religiously incompatible with their faith as followers of the One God. Continue reading