Friday, December 29, 2017

Through Stained Glass: A Mid-Week Reflection-Serious Silent Snow

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’”
~Luke 2.10-14

What a day, right? 

What a season Christmas has been!

What an ending to 2017. 

Isn’t it hard to believe we had 60-degree weather in the first part of December? And now, I hear reports of 8 inches of snow AND Sunday night the wind-chill will get down to minus 15!

Are. You. Serious. Right. Now?!

Isn’t it beautiful though? All the snow? All the change? All the ways the world still does her thing amidst the lives we live? Isn’t it incredible how God creates mighty mountains and light, fluffy, snowflakes and cares for us? 

Indeed, on this the fifth day of Christmas, we see how much God loves us. 

Yup, this is the fifth day of Christmas. We continue traveling with the wise men to the manger. We hear reports of how there was a birth, a star appearing bright in the night sky, and a baby has the folks in the executive office shaking in their snow boots. The holiday music has stopped, and the Christmas trees are on the curbs, but the Christmas season is unfolding before us. 

The reason for this season is the incarnation. 

The birth of Christ is the revelation of God’s heart. 

And at the heart of God is celebration.

God celebrates you. God loves you. God delights in you. 

Think about that, please. The God who created the heavens and the earth, who separated light from darkness, and brought forth creation, not only loves you but created you in Her image and likeness. If that wasn’t enough, God came to us in the Christ child. The Messiah, who is the Savior, our Redeemer, was born for all people. Now, like then, amid all that frightens us, all that we are anxious about, the impact of the past and concerns about the future, God is here, and light triumphs. 

That, my friends, is such good news! 

As the world quiets beneath the white blanket of snow, silencing the sirens and the incessant barking of your neighbor's dog, ponder what it means for God to choose us, all of us, when God’s incarnate Son, was born, bringing peace, joy, and love into the world!

I imagine, as you do, you too will proclaim, 

‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!'

What a day!

What a season Christmas is!

What a way to begin!

            Indeed, God is good! 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Through Stained Glass: A Mid-Week Meditation-Glory

“When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory…” ~Matthew 25.31, KJV


What a word.

Glory—a word that comes with so much theological baggage.

In a season where we have pastors eisegeting scripture rather than exegeting them, doing their best to usher in “God's glory,” I discover the glory of God in the ordinariness of a messy desk. While pastors preach about peace in some far off place beyond the moon, and outside of space, scripture speaks of Jesus announcing God’s reign is coming soon, even now.

When I get frustrated by folks in my profession who don’t speak for me but get all the limelight, I remember how God’s glory arrived in the world:  in an unexpected place, at an unexpected time, to an unexpected peasant girl who clenched her fist and sung about the victory of God.

That’s the glory of God, y’all. The church exists to sign, to signal, to sing about that tension whereby those who are at the bottom are being lifted up, and those who are on top are brought down.

Glory, as found in the gospels, is…

Jesus feeding the hungry multitudes as a gift of God’s overflowing compassion rather than as an act of economic enslavement!

Jesus performing miracles not as means of harnessing divine powers for himself, but as a sign of God’s in breaking strength in the world!

Jesus exercising power for good, but not by the means and methods of the world’s kingdoms!

Advent is that time we prepare for the arrival of God’s glory in unexpected places—in the ordinariness of life.

And what’s glorious about this is how Jesus made available God’s kingdom, power, and glory to ordinary folks like you and me to participate in the same kingdom, power, and glory.

Which makes me think of the prayer we pray daily—the Lord’s Prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer says that this kingdom, this power and this glory reconceived in life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, is now and forever.

The kingdom for which we pray is not pie in the sky by and by, and can only come when we name Jerusalem as a capital. But instead, the kingdom, the reign of God, is now—we must not wait because we need not wait to be friends with God because God has already chosen us.

In Christ, the kingdom of God has been brought near to us; usually made known now to us only in glimpses.

Like in a painting of child who found your church to be … fun…

Or written in a card by a group of people who wanted to tell you “that you are loved by many”….

Or in the wrappings and ribbons from a gift by a beloved friend who reminds you often of your belovedness …

Or in a space that smells like smoke but feels like home …

Or …

And that’s the thing, friends. The real glory of God occurs when the hungry get food, the children get gifts, and the women receive justice.

God’s glory came in the innocence of a child…in such a mundane way.

Like this messy desk of mine from today.

What a word. What a day.


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Through Stained Glass: A Mid-Week Reflection-Advent Awesome


I try my best not to use this word.

Mainly because some people think everything is awesome.

That burger was awesome. That preacher has awesome hair. Tom Brady get the point.

I guess you can say ‘awesome’ has lost some of its…awesomeness.

That was terrible.

But there are times when no other word can be used but awesome.

Here is the definition I’m working with:
            awe-some:  adjective—extremely impressive; inspiring great admiration

Great admiration.

Know what’s awesome? This photo. Know why? Four of these women are 95 or older. They are the matriarchs of our church. These four women attend just about every event at the church. They are faithful worshippers, rarely missing a Sunday. They are the ones who at the end of a service offer me kind words of encouragement as they hug me.

These four women, their faith is awesome.

They are awesome not only because they laugh at my corny jokes, but also because they get it. They know what it means to show up. They know what it means to be present with each other. I mean, these four ladies have seen more in their lifetimes than I ever will.

And yet,

Kind of like Anna.

I know, I’m rushing the story. Anna doesn’t appear until Luke 2 when Jesus is presented in the temple, but her faithfulness is important to note now in Advent.
“There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Ash’er. She was of great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.”
Y’all, see what Luke is doing here? Luke is emphasizing Anna’s reliability so that her testimony regarding Jesus is unimpeachable. Her devotion to God is an emblem of her piety. She teaches that our waiting, when rooted in prayer and other spiritual disciplines, is never in vain. Anna didn’t remain idle while she waited for God’s good news. Anna bears witness to the words that the prophet Isaiah spoke, “…the Holy One longs to be gracious to you, and therefore God exalts Godself to show mercy to you. For the Holy one is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for God.”

Like Anna, these four saints have taught me so much about faith, hope, and love. They remind me how there is wisdom in the waiting. They teach me, every time we are together, breaking bread, about joy.

And that, my friends, is
                                                Extremely impressive,
                                                                                    Inspiring great (bigly) admiration.

May you in your waiting know God’s good news. May you trust how God longs to be gracious to you. And may you, as you anticipate the return of the light, welcome hope, knowing like Anna, that goodness will come to those who wait.

Questions to consider
Who are the wise prophets like Anna in your life? What wisdom my they offer up to you? How might they help you name God’s presence in your life with their stories of faith?


Thank you God for the awesome people who surround me with goodness and love.