Thursday, January 19, 2017

Through Stained Glass: A Mid-Week Reflection-Yea



We miss you.


During the passing of the peace we’ve looked for you.

Yes! I was even going to walk across the sanctuary to shake your hand.


Is everything okay?


Things just don’t, you know, feel right when you’re not here.


It’s like a puzzle with a missing piece. Though its beautiful, it isn’t complete.


You do know you can come back, right?


You do know we love you, right?


Did you know you are God’s beloved?

Can I elaborate on this a bit?


We all carry the seed of the Divine within us.


Yea. Let me go on. Meister Eckhart said, “The seed of God is in us….The seed of a pear tree grows into a pear tree, a hazel seed into a hazel tree, a seed of God into God.”


A tree doesn’t just grow, right? Rain, sunlight, oxygen, and the earth help make a tree become a tree.


A tree is a tree because that is what a tree is supposed to be.


A tree doesn’t grow to be something else—a skyscraper or a mountain. A tree is a tree because it is a tree. In being a tree it is free—as God intended it to be.


We aren’t supposed to be a tree. That’s not what is being said here. Instead, God—the work of our life—the working of salvation—what God wants for me—is to be, well, me.


Yes! And God loves me, like She loves you. How do we love like God?


Good question. Let me put it this way:  we should love God mindlessly, that is, so that our spirits are without our preconceived notions of who God is or isn’t. As well as ridding ourselves of who we are…or aren’t.




No, like, listen. Truly listen. When we stop worrying about whether or not we are smart enough, cute enough, funny enough, young enough; when we stop imagining God as being up there or an old man with a white beard or a white guy with blonde hair the and the prettiest blue eyes—when we give all that up—that’s when we will see all the earth, and all people (even our most bitterest of enemies…and those we love but could never agree with), all beings are a burning bush.


Right? One does not have to travel to Mount Sinai to encounter the Divine in a burning bush—every bush is a burning bush, every leaf, every stone, every fish, every bird, and every person.


But we have to sit with them and receive them. We have to dare to listen…to them…and ourselves.


Last thing about this.


Prayer—contemplation, praying with our lives—is essentially listening in silence, an expectancy. All of us—all of us—are words of God and revelations of God.


You probably are wondering what this has to do with how this started, huh? How we miss you. How church doesn’t feel the right without you.


Well, simply put—we burn brighter…longer…warmer…when you’re there.



                        Found a quote, can I share it with you?


                        Goes along with what you said.


                        Yea, some guy named Merton said it. Goes something like this:  “A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying [God]. It “consents,” so to speak, to [God's] creative love. It is expressing an idea which is in God and which is not distinct from the essence of God, and therefore a tree imitates God by being a tree.” (New Seeds of Contemplation)


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Through Stained Glass: A Mid-Week Reflection-Who & Whose

Here’s an honest statement:

Baptism of Christ Sunday is one of my top five liturgical days of the year.

It ranks above Pentecost and, I can’t believe I’m saying this, Christmas.

Now, please let me be clear—I LOVE CHRISTMAS! I LOVE CHRISTMAS EVE! I love baby Jesus and all that comes with the Christmas season—from Christmas trees (mine is still up by the way) to singing Christmas songs (I hated packing away my John Denver Christmas vinyl.)

Again, I say, I love, Love, LOVE Christmas.

But I especially love the baptism of Christ Sunday.

Why? Baptism is what unites us to Christ. Baptism is where our life begins. In baptism we are made known to God. In baptism we are gifted with all that makes us, well, us.

As many of you know, I’m a visual learner. Which makes sense as to why I love baptisms and communion. In the sacraments, God’s grace can be seen, felt, tasted, and smelled. The Sacraments are not a different word from the witness of the Scriptures, nor do they diverge from the testimony of faithful preaching, whether through a sermon or the choir. We are a people of Word and Sacrament.

Adam, buddy, we know this. We have been Presbyterian most our lives. What’s the point?

I guess I want you all to consider this: 
Remember who you are. Remember whose you are.

On Sunday when we pour the water and you read in the bulletin those italicized words
Remember your baptism and be thankful!

I really want you to remember your baptism.

Because baptism is the fullness of the gospel, God’s gracious love poured over us.

The waters of baptism rinse away the make-up of those masks we wear and remind us of our identity in God—a beloved child.

Baptism then, friends, does not merely tell us about Christ, or remember Christ, or point to Christ, or represent Christ. In baptism, Christ is present with us, making us one with him in a death like his and a resurrection like his.

Baptism happens once, yet takes a lifetime to complete. Which is why we must find ways to remind ourselves of the life gained in baptism. Broken we are, but we bear the image of Christ—we live out our baptismal identities in our daily lives. Remember as we do, that God has forgiven us and God loves us.

Here’s a fun little tidbit to get you through the day:
When Martin Luther felt discouraged or afraid, he’d often splash water on himself and declare, “But I am baptized!” John Calvin advised readers depressed by evil to “reflect that they are still on the way” to the “complete victory” that God promises in baptism.

Friends, we are still on the way. All of us. We are all moving towards that completion of our baptism—embracing the fullness of God’s promise.

So do me a favor, please.

Right now, or later, but sometime today—play with and/or in water.

When you’re doing dishes tonight—feel the heat warm not only your skin but also your heart and say out loud “Remember your baptism and be thankful.”

When you’re at Culver’s and you’re going for a 10th straight day of not drinking soda, while the water fills your paper cup say softly to yourself, “Remember your baptism and be thankful.”

When you’re giving your grandchild a bath tonight, play in the water. Watch the water bead down and over their little heads. Then remember that the same joy you see is the same joy God sees in you.

Remember your baptism and be thankful.

Because we can never escape God’s claim on us.

That, my friends, is why I love baptism of Christ Sunday. It is why you’ll hear me say more and more wherever we are, “Remember your baptism and be thankful!

 “You are not your own; you have been marked out as belonging to God. You have been cleansed from your sin. You have been identified with the death and resurrection of Jesus. You belong to the multigenerational, multicultural family of God. You are God’s beloved. Splash and play in the fount of life and know that when you do, God delights in you!”

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Through Stained Glass: A Mid-Week Reflection-Epiphany Extravaganza

         On this the eve of the final day of Christmas I say to you, Merry Christmas!

         The liturgical year is moving right along.

         Advent had us preparing for the Light.

         Christmas has us rejoicing in the Light.

         And tomorrow, Epiphany will have us celebrating the Light.

         For those of us who can’t remember, Epiphany means the manifestation of the incarnation—or the revelation of God.

         Epiphany is a church festival celebrated every January 6th that commemorates the coming of the Magi as the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles or, in the Eastern Church, the commemoration of the baptism of Christ.

         Epiphany is often overlooked in our churches.  

         After all, its time to focus our attention on all those resolutions we did or didn’t make. And there’s a reason why the people who created the liturgical calendar called this time ordinary.

         While we could easily fall back into the habits of ‘ordinary’ life, succumbing to the hopelessness the news perpetuates, reducing our concerns to only those who look like, sound like, and align ideologically with us, I want to offer an alternative perspective:  life viewed through the lens of Epiphany.

         Epiphany is the day the world is made known of God’s claim once more on all the earth. Advent (“the prophets foretold the coming of the Light”) and Christmas (“the angels praised the Light”) find their fulfillment in the Epiphany, which invites all the nations of the earth to come and worship the Savior of the world.

         God is with us. God is in us. We can encounter God in the daily activities of our lives just as we did during Advent and Christmas. God dwells in the ordinary.

         Yet, here’s the thing about Epiphany, nothing about it is ordinary. It’s the season of the magi’s discovery, Christ’s baptism, and ultimately, the proclamation that God often shows up where we least expect it.

Epiphany reminds us that God comes to us among the lonely and forgotten, the poor and the vulnerable, the refugee and the stranger—in the life of a child whose parents are terrified refugees.

Tomorrow we read the story of the Magi and the truth of John 1:9 is revealed – the truth of God, coming into the world, enlightens all creation and every person. Every child is an incarnation of our beloved Savior.

         This means, you.

         Yes, you.

         You are a child of God, created in the image and likeness of Love.

         And in the mystery of the Word made flesh, the fullness revealed in the Epiphany, God has caused a new light to shine our hearts. Together we are a light shining in a darkened world.

         Finally, friends, I extend an invitation for you and your families to begin something new. In ancient times, before calendars were easily accessible, it became the practice of the Church on the Feast of the Epiphany to announce the dates of what lay ahead in the liturgical year. Such dates included Ash Wednesday, Easter Sunday, the day of the Ascension, and Pentecost.

         One of the reasons the church did this was to remind the people that though we’ve packed up the Christmas ornaments and placed the poinsettias in the garbage can, the story is not over. To drive this point home the church started a fun tradition known as “the blessing of the chalk.” Probably because of the detail in the day’s Gospel, that the Magi entered “the house” where the Holy Family then resided, the practice arose of blessing chalk during or after church and either the clergy or the people themselves taking that chalk and blessing the house in which the people lived. The mark was placed over the entrance door in the form of the year. So for instance, 2017 would look like this:  20+C+M+B+17. The initials indicated the supposed names of the Magi (Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar, preceded by a cross showing their sainthood).
         “Chalking the door” is a way to celebrate and literally mark the occasion of the Epiphany and God’s blessing of our lives and homes. With time the chalk will fade. As it does we let the meaning of the symbols written sink into the depths of our hearts and manifest in our words and actions.

         Bet you didn’t know Epiphany had so much going on with it, did ya? See, there’s really nothing ordinary about this time.

         If you want me to come and bless your home with chalk, let me know.

         In the meantime, please receive this blessing on the eve of Epiphany:

May Almighty God, who led the Magi by the shining of a star to find the Christ, the Light from Light, lead you also, your comings and your goings, to find the Savior. Amen.

Merry Christmas!

Happy New Year!

And much happiness to you during these Epiphany days!


The initials CMB (lower right corner) has also come to mean,
"Christus mansionem benedicat."
This is Latin for "[May] Christ bless this house."