Friday, January 31, 2014

Feeding People

 
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?" He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, "Six months' wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little." One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?" Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost." So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, "This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world."
When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. John 6:1-15
 
We have been enjoying the foods that we have a hard time getting in Alaska. Every region has specialties which are often not fancy foods but rather the daily simple meals that bring people together. We stopped on our way out of town, after several days with my Mom, and bought hoagies from our favorite shop. It was about to close for a winter break, so we were glad we made it there. Simple pleasures come from being fed by familiar foods, gathering together with family and strangers alike.  Anyone of us can name a food that says "home" to us.
 
A huge crowd has gathered around Jesus. They are far away from anywhere and very hungry. The disciples are petrified by the crowd and the cost - it is all too much for them. One little boy generously shares his simple foods, and in doing so the whole crowd was fed, made to feel at home, and miracles happened. What was once inadequate became abundance. What was once an impossible task became a huge pleasure. In their gratitude they wanted to make him king because he had fulfilled a tremendous need, and known how to bring a whole people together.
 
Today I ask God to help me offer up what seems inadequate so that God may make it abundant. May we offer what we have so that God might increase for the car3e of others. May we never fear the need of the people, but rather trust God with providing the abundance today.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Not Alone


Jesus said, "I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.
"If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that his testimony to me is true. You sent messengers to John, and he testified to the truth. Not that I accept such human testimony, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But I have a testimony greater than John's. The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form, and you do not have his word abiding in you, because you do not believe him whom he has sent.
"You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept glory from human beings. But I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in my Father's name, and you do not accept me; if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?" John 5:30-47

Not Alone

I come from  a powerfully long line
feisty and laughing Native women
who have looked death in the eye
and said I am not finished yet.

My mother's ancient deep black eyes
her face worn and wrinkled but proud
looks at the years gathering round
and tell us she is truly blessed.

There is testimony from the walls
that speak of ancient wounds and betrayal
and yet which resound with thriving
despite the world's worst storms.

My mother and her house are one
she leans more as she walks her floors
touching memories made over thousands of days
a echo chamber of love lived large,

We are not alone in our decisions or actions
each one sends signals to the coming generations
laughter lingers after all the condemnation dies
and love delights in each new day.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Hour is Coming

 
 
 
Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished. Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes. The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life.
"Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; and he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and will come out - those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation."  John 5:19-29
 
We arrived last night just as the snow was falling. Overnight we got somewhere between four and six inches. We left Alaska in 40 plus degree weather and find ourselves in 14 degrees and a half a foot of snow in South Jersey. It feels as if everything is off balance and topsy-turvy. Usually it is milder here that in most of the state and snow is limited by the relative warmth of the ocean. It is nice to be home though, even for a few days. The connection with home and family is important, and the ability to renew those relationships is essential to me.
 
Jesus reminds his disciples that he is intimately tied to God, woven together in all they do. And we are embedded in that relationship, woven with the holy Trinity, given power and strength by our belonging. Jesus reminds us today that we are not solely independent beings but bound together, and surrounded by the love of God. We sink or swim together, we thrive and perish together.
 
Today I ask God to help me lovingly renew relationships as we travel, and to let go of expectations, taking people just as they are. May we trust in God that we are embedded deeply in the heart of God, freed to love and thrive as children of the Creator. Today may we live like the family of God.
 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Take Up Your Bed



After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. John 5:1-8

We are on the road, traveling east to see my Mom and our daughters. This was supposed to be a one day of several flights but is now spread over two. A canceled flight due to weather and everything changes. We will sleep in many different beds over the next week and a half. We will be on the road and mobile, visiting with those we love and miss so much. We take for granted our capacity to move around, to fly over great distances, and to see those we love. Those who have lost physical capacity and are isolated by poverty and illness, may never get that chance.

Jesus heals a man who has been lying by the pool, with no one to help him, no one to fight for him. Jesus acts out of love on the Sabbath Day. He sees the ache and longing in the man's eyes, knowing he would rather be with his family, rather be anywhere but stranded helpless by the Sheep Gate's pool. Jesus gives him what we take for granted, the capacity to get up and move, to be our own advocates, and to see the faces of those we love. These greatest gifts, independence and connection, are the gifts God regularly offers to us.

Today, I ask God to help me be patient with the traveling and to be thankful for all the people I will be able to see. May we be grateful for our independence and our connectedness, the strength and love we have in our daily lives. May we share God's love by doing all we can to offer other these gifts we have been so freely given.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Your Son Will Live


When the two days were over, he went from that place to Galilee (for Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in the prophet's own country). When he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, since they had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the festival; for they too had gone to the festival. 

Then he came again to Cana in Galilee where he had changed the water into wine. Now there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, "Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe." The official said to him, "Sir, come down before my little boy dies." Jesus said to him, "Go; your son will live." The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way. As he was going down, his slaves met him and told him that his child was alive. So he asked them the hour when he began to recover, and they said to him, "Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him." The father realized that this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, "Your son will live." So he himself believed, along with his whole household. Now this was the second sign that Jesus did after coming from Judea to Galilee. John 4:43-54 

A Parent's Prayer

My heart is breaking for my son
My heart is breaking for my daughter
there is no strength left to fight
no money left for cures and medicine
there is only my breaking heart. 

This child of mine the joy of my heart
 the one who used to run through the fields
struggles to breath, struggles to live
I would change places with them
I would take all their pain and bear it.

They are my heart my little ones
they may be grown and fiercely independent
but in this aging being they are my heart
renewed every day by their love
I would sacrifice all  for extra time.

God knows the father's heart the mother's also
God's heart is a parents' heart leaping and breaking
reaching out in love, joy and hope and quivering
with desire to bring all children safely home
deliver all goodness and healing to all
aching to bind up each and every wound.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Follow Me

 

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
"Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles--
the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned."

From that time Jesus began to proclaim, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."
As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea-- for they were fishermen. And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people." Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.
Matthew 4:12-23

I grew up around fishermen and learned much about that life was young. It isn't an easy life, but rather much hard work, rough weather challenges and lots of mess. It is not for the faint of heart or the fussy. It is a life that demands long hours and much sacrifice, and there is always danger. I now live where much of the town makes a livelihood from fishing. It is not a life for the glamorous or the lazy. You have to go all in and put your whole self into it.

Matthew's Gospel was written for a Jewsih audinece and throughout the Gospel he reminds people of the ancient stories and prophecies. He understands their perspective and their understanding of traditional roles. By telling this story of the calling of the fishermen, Matthew's Gospel reminds us that the Son of God was calling people from a very different place than the traditional roles. Those who followed Jesus, those who would be his disciples and friends would not necessarily come from the learned class. Jesus was calling those who were willing to be all in. And for any of us who thinks we are not worthy, we can look to the first disciples and realize that God calls all kinds of people and makes them God's own.

Today I ask God to help me be a good disciple and to say yes. May we not hold back because of our personal limitations, but rather, say yes to God. May we get up and follow trusting that God will supply what we need for today in the service of others.

The Collect

Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Staying With Them


Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him.

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” John 4:27-42



You can really get to know someone if you go and stay with them. Traveling and camping out with folks will either solidify a friendship or strain it to the breaking point. When I went off to Scout camp the first time, I learned that some girls will befriend you but they will also turn on you. You find out who really is a friend when you share close quarters. Sharing food and space shows us all our real selves. We cannot hide behind pretense when you have to share so much together. A shared experience, like living or traveling together will bond folks as life long friends.

Jesus had this remarkable encounter with the Samaritan woman. She went back and told her story and her people came to see Jesus. Her tale was so powerful they had to see for themselves and invite Jesus to stay with them. They offered hospitality and he came to stay with them. He was not afraid to share their food and shelter, their most intimate of moments with them. And because of that, they came to know God incarnate in their midst.

Today may we seek God through hospitality and invitation. May we be willing to share our food and lives with others so they might know the absolute welcome of God.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Hour is Coming


Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, "Go, call your husband, and come back." The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!" The woman said to him, "Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us." Jesus said to her, "I am he, the one who is speaking to you." John 4:16-26

The weather channel predicted that we would have plentiful sunshine today. Living in Sitka, we rarely see that prediction, let alone that reality. It is sunny today, barely a cloud in the sky, and it is in the mid-fifties. While other parts of the country suffer with extreme cold, we who live in SE Alaska are thrilled to be bathed in sunlight. If someone told me that I would be this happy about sunshine, I wouldn't have believed them. But now, with the experience of living where the days are very short in the winter and the clouds obscure the sun most often, I a giddy with delight. Sometimes, when we wait a long time for something we really prize it. And sometimes, we don't know what to do since it has been something to always be waiting for.

The woman at the well talks with Jesus. And he talks with her. This is an open and intimate conversation, more like two friends than two enemies. Many other times Jesus spoke in parables because of folks lack of understanding. But he knew this woman was honest and straight forward. She couldn't have known that fetching water, a daily routine, would bring her into the living presence of the long awaited Messiah. She, a Samaritan, was given the gift to know and understand Jesus in his completeness. Her people, as well as the Jews, had waited so long for the one who would come and join all the people together. Standing face to face with her was the incarnate God. The long awaited Son was the gift for her humanity.

Today I ask God to help me rejoice in gifts small and large, those long awaited and the surprises along the way. May we open our hearts and welcome all who come and interrupt us in our daily chores, understanding we may be drawn close to the living God in each encounter.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Drink of Water


Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, "Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John" - although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized - he left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him,"How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." The woman said to him, "Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?" Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life." The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water." John 4:1-15



A Drink of Water


The Teacher asks for a cup of water
my enemy speaks to me with kind words
his eyes with sorrow deep and gentle
we sit and talk in the shaded afternoon.

A cup of water breaks down the walls
Jericho and Jerusalem come tumbling down
we are not strangers nor enemies
by children at the family table.

A cup of water and he knows my heart
there is no judgement for my foolish ways
with him there is welcome real and known
a place is set for all humanity.

A cup of water and we become
one family, one people beloved of God
we linger in the shade and rejoice
for all of creation gathers around.

A cup of water that I bear
I who is not worthy but wanted anyway
whom God has chosen to hear this news
and carry it back to my tribe and clan.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Joy Complete


Now a discussion arose between some of John's disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.”

He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. John 3:25-35


When I think of complete joy, I imagine my daughters dashing down the sand, dropping their towels and kicking off their shoes, and diving into the ocean. Their laughter rings in my mind, as I see them flying down the beach and taking on the waves during the summer. No anxiety, no fear is present and they are totally in the moment. As teenagers they may have been anxious about not being cool, but now, just as when they were small, they dove with reckless abandon. No one and nothing could curtail their complete joy.

John's disciples are confused and worried. Jesus has shown up on the scene and things are changing, Their guy is no longer the star of the show or the big draw. Yet John tells them that he was always the opening act and he was preparing them and the world for Jesus. It is hard for them to swallow all of this. And yet John finds the arrival of Jesus as complete joy - what he had been waiting for - for a very long time. He never wanted to be the star of the show. His desire was to make way for Jesus. And in that his joy was complete, to bring the incarnate God face to face with the world.

Today I ask God to help me find my joy in showing Christ to others. May we, by word and action, introduce God's love to a world that needs it, a world that so needs joy. May we find our bliss in sharing the love we have been given today.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

God So Loved The World

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” John 3:16-21

God So Loved the World

From the beginning of time
when the yeast was still rising
creation stumbling in the dark
when morning and evening confused
their roles mixing colors together
God so loved the world.

When in the dust of human effort
only danger and evil reigned
when we humans gave up depressed
unwilling to fight the stark sadness
when night owned the dirty streets
God so loved the world.

When in Flanders fields we fought
when bombing the innocents
and rounding up children under two
when reason was swallowed up by greed
when the poor became the enemy
God so loved the world.

When we made martyrs of those
who walked the Selma streets
those who rang the freedom bell
when hope seemed conquered once again
God so loved the world.



Monday, January 20, 2014

Unseen Things


When Jesus was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God." Jesus answered him, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above." Nicodemus said to him, "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, 'You must be born from above.' The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." Nicodemus said to him, "How can these things be?" Jesus answered him, "Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?

"Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life." John 2:23 - 3:15


Yesterday was a rare sunny day in Sitka. It has been an unusually warm and wet January and we have had few days of dry weather. After church yesterday we decided to go out looking for whales. We drove out Saw Mill Creek Road and parked near Herring Cove and then we waited. Yesterday, we waited and waited and saw nothing. It happens. Looking for whales requires patience sometimes, and you look for the spouts - huge exhales of steam on the water - in order to see where the whales might be. They can stay submerged for six to eight minutes at a time. One has to wait until they decide to surface and show themselves. We had no luck yesterday. And yet that waiting, that hoping is often worth the time and effort. To be up close to their magnificent beauty and to watch them glide and dance in the water is a glorious moment every time.

Jesus is in Jerusalem and encounters religious leaders who want a sign. One of them, Nicodemus, is sincere about his desire to understand and know Jesus. Jesus tells him he must be born again of the spirit, that he must be remade by the spirit. This frustrates Nicodemus, and others most likely, because he wants a solid answer, some sign or miracle to see and understand. And yet Jesus invites him to be born again by spirit, to be broken open by the love of God. Something we all have to wait for. The movement of the spirit is mysterious and uncontrollable. We who want to control things, put things on a schedule and timeline are frustrated by this answer. And yet, the waiting is worth it. God's holy spirit changes lives, and moves mountains.

Today I ask God to help me let go of control and wait on the spirit. May we who are anxious about much take the time to wait and pray, trusting that all that we worry about is in God's hands. May we release our control so that we might know the blessing and beauty of the spirit's presence in our lives today.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Remaining




John saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, `After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.' I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel." And John testified, "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, `He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God."


The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, "Look, here is the Lamb of God!" The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, "What are you looking for?" They said to him, "Rabbi" (which translated means Teacher), "where are you staying?" He said to them, "Come and see." They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas" (which is translated Peter). John 1:29-42


"Stick with me." That is what my father used to say and to this day it can make me cringe. I loved my Dad, but when he said that, it meant there was more work to do, and that moment by moment he was thinking up more work for us. While other children were out playing, we were painting and scraping, moving and digging, and engaging in a seemingly endless list of chores that needed to be done. My parent's house dates back to the 1820s, so there was legitimately always something more to do. As children though, we would rather be out running around with our friends in the sun shine, riding our bikes and jumping in the ocean. Anything but being captive to my father's work ethic and imagination.

The invitation to visit, to hospitality brought the first disciples into Jesus' life and home. They remained with him all day. They felt comfortable and accepted just as they are were. These rough and tumbled fishermen were welcome in Jesus' dwelling, so comfortable they stayed all day. And for us God promises that are welcomed and wanted, just as we are. God wants us around. God's desire is known in hospitality. Nothing glamorous, just a simple come and see, and hang around all day, like a beloved friend.

Today I ask God to help me to be open to God's welcome whenever it may come. May we all make room for others as we make room in our hearts and home for the love of God.


The Collect

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Cleansing the Temple

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The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. John 2:13-22


Take These Things Away - a song of the heart

The poinsettias and candles
no more make Christmas than
lilies can make it become Easter here
but a humble heart can make room for all.

The lights and noise of Epiphany
the palms and the veiled cross of Holy Week
the litanies and the processions
only invite our broken hearts.

There is no sacrifice that love
desires, needs or demands today
and there is no decoration or gilding
that can mask an empty shell.

What we offer is an honest need
a broken heart and broken dreams
what we offer is what the Creator desires
the sweet childlike need for God's love.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Water to Wine


On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward." So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now." Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples; and they remained there a few days. John 2:1-12


There are people in my life who have helped me see my gifts when I could not. They push me to try when I have given up. Often times, it has been a member of my family. I remember call my minister Dad with fear and trepidation. I told him I had a sense of call and then quickly suggested I get a masters in Christian Education. He told me that if God were calling me, I was to respond and that God would give me what I needed to make it through. I doubted myself and thought I wasn't ready. He could see what I couldn't.

We read the story of Jesus' first miracle at the wedding in Cana. His mother pressures into using the gifts he has. Although Jesus pushes back against his mother, telling her it is not his time, he quickly moves to using his gifts and skills as asked. We like to think of Jesus as all powerful. Sometimes we forget that he was a man, and someone's son. Capable of all the anxiety and doubt we know, fully human with all human frailties. His mother gave him a push, and despite his own push back, gave in and began using his gifts. We fear and trepidation we use the gifts we have been given, trusting that in relationship with God, we will be given what we need for the time.

Today I want to give thanks for all the people who have push and encouraged me when I didn't think I was able. May we take time to remember those people who saw our value when we could not. May we remember that there are people around us who need a push and that encouragement today. And there is a world waiting to be touched and fed by their unique gifts.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Under A Tree


The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” John 1:43-51


I often think there is something wonderful about sitting under a tree. It is an opportunity to be childlike, protected from the sun and elements, hidden, possibly from the world. And yet, we are right in the midst of everything when we are sitting under a tree. The tree is a dwelling place for birds and other creatures, home to many and can be a safe haven, a place to find sanctuary. Nestled under a tree, we can hear our heart beat, and watch the light filter through the leaves and branches. We can weep and laugh in private, reading until the sun goes down.

In our Gospel today we hear the story of Jesus and Nathanael. Jesus calls him an honest man, who calls it like he see it. And Nathanael is overwhelmed by Jesus knowing his childlike heart, that sought the gentle, cool refuge of the fig tree. Nathanael's surprise is ours also, for we think so often we are alone and not understood. And yet God knows our hearts and our secrets. And the one who made us loves us just as we are.

Today I ask God to let me be accepting of myself and others. May we embrace the unique beings that we are, knowing that God uses our peculiarities to show love to the world. Let us not hide ourselves away but rather be willing to be completely human and vulnerable, knowing that God loves shine through all of us today.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Come and See

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). John 1:35-42

Come and See


There is no way to know
the life of another
but to stay with them
to dwell in the habitation.

There is no way to love
another but to follow them
to eat with them and suffer
the daily challenges they face.

There is no way to find
the way to peace and joy
except by stepping out
and leaving the familiar behind.

There is no other way to see
the place love inhabits
except by going and seeing
taking others along.

There is no way to be alive
but to risk failure and loss
throwing caution to the wind
and embracing love.

Come and see and live
come and know that love
is real and present and able
to change the sorrow to joy.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Across the Water



This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” as the prophet Isaiah said. Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing. John 1:19-28

The water is always around us here. Lately, it has been raining so much, even Sitkans take notice. Although we had some snow a few days ago, we have had massive amounts of rain since. Storm and wind, trees bent over in the gales, and we are tucked inside, sheltered from the elements. And yet, we cannot hide from it all the time. The water is part of our lives and speaks volumes about who we are as a people. It identifies us, shapes us, molds us, and changes us forever.

Today we hear the testimony of John. The Gospel writer places this in Bethany, across the Jordan from where John had been baptizing. It might mean nothing to us who live at a distance, but it is very meaningful to the locals. Knowing where things have happened determines how we understand them. Events and people are shaped by the local culture and the geography. John was in Bethany to bring a message to the people who needed to hear it. And we might just be those people today, who need to hear the message of John. He announces the presence of God, the living, incarnate presence of the Creator in our midst.

Today, I ask God to help me know God's presence in this context and in this place. May we not see God as far off, by as always drawing near. May we pray to have eyes to see God's love in our very own context and place so we might show others the living God in our midst, today.

Monday, January 13, 2014

In the Beginning


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.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
John 1:1-18


Living here in Sitka and walking the trails that abound, it is easy to imagine beginnings in these primeval forests. Ancient trees the growth out of the deadfall of other ancient trees, the deep past whispers throughout it all. The canopy of dense forest can shut out the variegated light, and one can imagine oneself close to the beginning of time as we know it. The volcanic islands that thrust out of the cold ocean keep many secrets of the past. It is a world rich with beauty, possibility and mystery.

The Gospel of John begins with the beginning, drawing pictures of Christ as Word that has been from the beginning. The Word became flesh so that we might be forever connected to the Holy, might ever be in relationship with God, might know love that brought forth the heart of Go for all of us to know. We find in this great and ancient poetry the incredible gift that love sought us from the beginning of time and came to earth so that we might know that creative love. Almost impossible to imagine, but the Creator was acting for us from the beginning of all that is. God aching to draw us close.

Today I ask God to help me trust God's desire to draw us ever closer. May we go forth this day with the knowledge that God desires to be in relationship with us and has desired this since the beginning of time. May we have light steps and joyful hearts, trusting that God is before us and behind us in all things today.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Baptism



Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased."
Matthew 3:13-17


Today we baptized two little boys, one an infant and one about age 11. Very different experiences for each of them, and yet, as clergy and people together, we are baptized along with them. These precious children give us an opportunity to reflect on God's love in our lives. We revisit our baptism as we hear tell of the baptism of Jesus. We hear God's promise to Christ, and God's promise to all of us. "You are my beloved, in whom I am well pleased." We remember that we have been adopted into the family of God and nothing can separate us from that family.

Our Gospel story tells of Jesus' baptism by John in the River Jordan. Somehow we participate in that same baptism as we enter into that baptismal mystery, where God became flesh so that we might become children of the living God. John initially refuses to baptize Jesus, he doesn't think he is worthy. But Jesus knows he is worthy, that we are all part of the family of God and welcome at the table. As we dive deep into the water of baptism, we rise up as children of one family, one Creator and beloved, every one of us.

Today I ask God to help me take the plunge. May we believe that we have been baptized into one family and we are covered by God's love, where ever we may go. May we revel in the water, splashing life giving water everywhere so that we might know the God's loving embrace today.

The Collect

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Way

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. John 14:6-14


Back home again and waking up to a snowfall. Traveling always heightens my gratitude for home and family, the amazingly good gifts that God has blessed us with. It also reminds me how so much of life is a journey, rather than a destination or a place. Home is where love abides. And love can and does abide on the journey, the dark nights, the lonely places, as well as in the ancestral homeland. There is love, light and truth on the way, and we are never to worry that we will be abandoned wherever we find ourselves.

Jesus is explaining to the disciples his relationship to them and to the world. He is food and life giving water, the way the truth and the life. He is willing and able to be with us and for us in every situation and in every need. We are not abandoned because we have failures and mistakes. Love doesn't run out and neither does God's love for us in Jesus Christ. We are offered one in whom we can put out complete trust, and who is all that we need and more.

Today I ask God to help me seek Christ in everything. May our first thoughts and actions be those of love and faithfulness. May we put aside wrangling and plotting and take up praying today.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Good Shepherd


So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. John 10:7-17

Good Shepherd

The gate secured as night falls
winter setting teeth to rattle
the lamps illuminate the brittle snow
and the predator lurk just beyond.

We think ourselves strong and safe
but the storms blow in quickly
the despair and darkness consume
and we give into our carelessness.

We forget that morning will come
imagine we have been left alone
abandon children turn on the weak
and make the hurting suffer more.

Good shepherd walks the perimeter
night and day restoring the broken links
wrapping the wounded in tender arms
and bringing in the soft foals.

In our jealousy and neediness
we think we need no other hand
and pretend we are independent
and horde our abundance.

Good Shepherd abides in our humanity
singing our fears away through dark nights
holding us when the beasts instill fear
and promise to bring us safely home.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Light of the World

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” John:12-19

Whenever folks talk about light and darkness I always think about a lighthouse. Actually, one lighthouse in particular, in the town where my Mother resides, and that place which has my heart. That beacon is always shining, day and night, but it is most needed and noted at night. Many times I have found my way home by it's light. Many times I find myself waking up at home to it's light in my window over the bed. It is constant and faithful, ever present, whether I need it or not. Lighting the coastline in fog and storm, signaling farewells as the ferries pull away.

Jesus uses images we can all relate to in order to explain our relationship to the Creator. There is a constancy and faithfulness of love that is not deterred by our ignorance or our foolishness. The love of God is boundless and seeking, lighting our way when we desperately need it and beckoning us homeward bound. The light reminds us that God is faithful no matter how lost we get, no matter how far away we wander, and no matter how thick our fog moves in.

Today I ask God to help me keep my eyes on the light of the world. May we always be seeking the path that leads us home, into the arms of our loving Creator. May we never fear that love runs out, for God has promised to shine for us throughout eternity so that we might be drawn always closer to the heart of God.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Rivers of Living Water

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John 7:37-39

I live on an island where is it almost always raining. There are rivers and streams everywhere. Water falls over rocks in many places at our sea level living. A majority of the people depend on the water for their livelihood, and the whole community faces towards the sea. Our harbors are filled with the most eclectic gathering of crafts, all which must withstand the Alaskan winters and function well in all sorts of seas. The people of Sitka understand living water. While at a meeting today in Los Angeles, I cannot help but wonder how different those words must seem and mean, to people who live in a desert climate. The throng of humanity challenges the notion of enough water for everyone, let alone streams of living water.

Jesus uses images of bread and water, the basic substances of life, to help people understand his relationship to the Creator. In him is the basics for lives, the strength for our daily living and the sustenance for our bodies and souls. We often seek God in our desperation rather than in our daily lives, moment by moment. We seek Christ when we are desperate and despairing rather than for our everyday basic needs. We are invited to go ahead and to dive right in, seeking God for the most basic needs of our lives.

Today I ask God to help me be dependent on Christ for everything. May we not rely on our own capacities but rather offer our gifts for the good of others, trusting that God will provide even our very basic needs. May we set out today, however high the surf might be, trusting that we are not alone when we have rivers of living waters from God.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Living Bread

"I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” John 6:48-51

It was hard to let go of Mary and Joseph. Those of you who follow this daily blog will know that I wrote letters from Mary until Christmas day, and from Joseph's Diary during the 12 days of Christmas until Epiphany. They have to go into Egypt, they have to move on and live their lives without me inside their heads. It felt a little like letting go of my children, having to trust that God would provide for them throughout their journey. And selfishly, being so close to them in my imagination, allowed me to be absorbed by their troubles, as only a parent can.

We are invited by God in this season of Epiphany, this season when the light returns and God is seen in our midst, to believe the promises we have herd from angels and kings. As Joseph and Mary take their child and journey on, so must we, trusting that God will provide direction, support and food along the way. We will be fed and nurtured. We are on a journey too, some to strange lands and emotionally different places, some into the heart of our own darkness. God goes with us to Egypt, our dark places and the strange new worlds we find ourselves in.

Today, I ask God to help me to trust every step of the way and with every breath I take. For many of us the way ahead is unclear and we are hungry to be fed and strengthened. May we step out in faith, as did Joseph and Mary, trusting that God will provide the simple bread we need, and the complex understanding of the road ahead. May we today delight as we venture forth, pilgrims all, with bread and light for our journey.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Your Light Has Come




Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
For darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the LORD will arise upon you,
and his glory will appear over you.
Nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
Lift up your eyes and look around;
they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from far away,
and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses' arms.
Then you shall see and be radiant;
your heart shall thrill and rejoice,
because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you,
the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
A multitude of camels shall cover you,
the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD. Isaiah 60:1-6


The Wise Men warned us and then it was confirmed in a dream. The authorities have found out where we are and are not happy that some think out little boy is a king. This child is not a political tool, or a seed of rebellion. This child is a gift from God and we have to protect him. The kind people who took us in, the wise women who have helped us over and over, all the people that have sheltered and fed us - none of them need the law to come down on them. We have to leave and will do so at first light. We are all packed and will move in the cool of the morning, resting in the heat of the day. I hope Mary is strong enough now but we have no choice. God said we must go out of the land and we can only obey. Thank God for the gifts we received. We may have enough to stay alive for a time. I pray we never have to beg.

I am struggling with our leaving, not because this is our home, but because somehow this stable and this little corner of Bethlehem has become like home to us. Strangers have become friends, all because of one little child. Our embarrassment and need has turned into a community of strength and joy. God turned all of our want and confusion into an oasis and a safe harbor. I wish we were heading home in the morning, but I have to trust that God will find us a new home there. As I write the boy and his mother sleep. There is such a sweetness in their rest, such a tenderness as they breath together, I never expected all of this. And tomorrow begins a new adventure that I never thought I would experience. God has made this homebody carpenter into a pilgrim, an adventurer and a father in such a short time. I can't even imagine what's next.


The Collect

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Another Road


In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage." When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

`And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.'"

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage." When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. Matthew 2:1-12


From Joseph's Diary


Visitors came last night as the sun was setting. They were like no one I have ever seen, and as they moved through the narrow winding streets, a crowd gathered fascinated by these strangers. Their robes were regal, shimmering with threads of gold and silver. Their headdresses were embellished with jewels that glistened in the slanting sunlight. They smelled like jasmine and oranges processing slowly as their helper ran ahead to find our dwelling. If they were surprised by our little baby in a stable, they made no mention. It seemed like the whole town was leaning in to find out what the strangers were up to.

They bowed low, and said incantations in their language. We smiled. not knowing else to do. Mary held the baby close as if she was afraid they would snatch him away. Then they spoke in Aramaic, and told us they were from far away in the east, having followed the star. They showed us charts and drawing of the night sky and told our little boy was a king. They gave him great, expensive gifts. Mary started to cry at the generosity, opulence and abundance. We were both shocked and rendered speechless. I finally got my voice back, and thanked them, inviting them to stay for meal. They sat, right where they were, and joined us for some food, talking late into the might like old uncles. They left by first light, telling me their God had warned them not to return to the palace, they headed out on a less familiar road. Day by day, I am amazed at how my life has changed, and cannot imagine what God has for us ahead.


The Collect

O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Restore Us

Lord, you were favorable to your land;

you restored the fortunes of Jacob.

You forgave the iniquity of your people;

you covered all their sin. Selah

You withdrew all your wrath;

you turned from your hot anger.

Restore us again, O God of our salvation,

and put away your indignation toward us!

Will you be angry with us forever?

Will you prolong your anger to all generations?

Will you not revive us again,

that your people may rejoice in you?

Show us your steadfast love, O Lord,

and grant us your salvation.

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,

for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints;

but let them not turn back to folly.

Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him,

that glory may dwell in our land.

Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;

righteousness and peace kiss each other.

Faithfulness springs up from the ground,

and righteousness looks down from the sky. Psalm 85:1-11


From Joseph's Diary

We finally took our boy to the temple. We had to wait until the Sabbath, so before the sun was set I went out and bought two doves. That is the price I was told. We went, anxious and overwhelmed by the crowd, trying to find the place where we should present out son. Everything is so strange and large here. Not like home where we know everyone and know where everything is. Here we ask directions and still get lost, as if people are trying to confuse us on purpose.

After many wrong turns and lots of confusion, two elders came to our aide. Their names were Simeon and Anna, and it was like they had been looking for us last night. They seemed to know us although I had never met either of them before. I would have remembered them, as they were some of the oldest, most wrinkled and wizened people I have ever known. But they both smiled and gently led Mary and I to the place of blessing. It was a wonderful moment and they shared their visions of God's healing and restoration for the world. They said it would come from this little child. Sometimes, I am overwhelmed by the responsibility that God has g8iven me. And sometimes, like last night, I am grateful for the outpouring of love and support from total strangers. We cannot feel alone when God provides support and friends wherever we go.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Do Not Be Afraid

When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going. John 6:16-21

From Joseph's Diary

A strange thing happened last night. The baby cried and Mary didn't instantly wake up to feed him. I went to his make-shift cradle and lifted him into my arms. He immediately started to quiet, then smile and reach his little hands to me. Before this I have been so careful and a bit frightened of handing him. In my sleepy state it seemed so natural and comfortable. I walked him around, rocking him in my arms, singing all the old songs my mother sang to me. It was so amazing. Mary slept right through and he seemed delighted to be in my arms.

I cannot wait to teach my little boy all the things I know. I know he isn't mine to keep, but I am no longer afraid to draw close to him and share myself. I was glad my brothers were not around to see me with Jesus. They would have teased me, thinking I was being too womanly. But I really don't care. Love has come to stay and nothing can separate us now. I will make it my mission to raise a strong lad, who is also sweet and compassionate. It seems to be much easier to imagine than it was just a few days ago. He is here and making the fear disappear!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Lacking Nothing

I will bless the Lord at all times;

his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

My soul makes its boast in the Lord;

let the humble hear and be glad.

Oh, magnify the Lord with me,

and let us exalt his name together!

I sought the Lord, and he answered me

and delivered me from all my fears.

Those who look to him are radiant,

and their faces shall never be ashamed.

This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him

and saved him out of all his troubles.

The angel of the Lord encamps

around those who fear him, and delivers them.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!

Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,

for those who fear him have no lack!

The young lions suffer want and hunger;

but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
Psalm 34:1-10


From Joseph's Dairy

The boy grows so much every day! I woke in the night to his soft crying and brought him to his mother. She is so tired these days but so cheerful. As he laid in her arms nursing, I saw how he had grown in just a few days of life. our simple nurturing is enough to make him grow strong. I don't know why I worry so, but it seems almost impossible that we can really care for this precious gift of God. And yet, every moment he grows, and is more alert and responsive by the hour. I cannot keep my eyes off of him. We will soon have to take him to the temple for a blessing. He seems to like the light, the air and the noise of the city. He seems to love the whole world.

For all the doubts and fears I have had, there have always been these moments of great clarity. We had visitors yesterday, they had come when they heard of the baby in the stable. They sang us songs of God's promises, these faithful elders. Although they were strangers to us, they knew my relatives, and encouraged us in many ways. They sang the old songs and fed us food from home! I don't know why I ever doubted, but that visit really secured my faith again. Our little boy was passed around and prayers were said. He was as good as gold and the elders left us some extra food so we won't have to shop for the next few days. There was much laughter too, as they told us old stories about our families and friends.

How good it is to trust God and to have others confirm and reaffirm that we are on the right path. There will always be days of weakness but thanks to the elders and their visit, the old songs will always bring me back. The old songs will always help me to go forward again!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Years Day 2014

Go through, go through the gates;

prepare the way for the people;

build up, build up the highway;

clear it of stones;

lift up a signal over the peoples.

Behold, the Lord has proclaimed

to the end of the earth:

Say to the daughter of Zion,

“Behold, your salvation comes;

behold, his reward is with him,

and his recompense before him.”

And they shall be called The Holy People,

The Redeemed of the Lord;

and you shall be called Sought Out,

A City Not Forsaken.
Isaiah 62:10-12


From Joseph's Diary

We have our child with us, just now a week old. He grows so quickly and yet he is a fragile newborn babe. Mary's health seems good, the wise women check on her twice a day at least. We are a curiosity and a diversion for them, I would guess. Our sweet son seems to delight them all and they remark on how good and cooperative he is. He really doesn't fuss much, but when he does cry, it wounds me to my core. I guess that is the price of being a parent. Mary spends hours watching him, sometimes just watching him sleep. Yesterday we took a walk around the city while he slept, the women wanting Mary to walk so she would be strong again. It was a remarkable walk, taking in the city with the eyes of parents, no longer two people but those responsible for a child, and this special child to top it all off. Nobody can know how special he is right now, so that we can keep him safe.

The time walking and talking restored some of my courage and hope. The sunlight was strong and warm, despite this winter chill, and we imagined ourselves back at home, planning all the things we will do with our boy. The strong sun reached into our hearts and reminded us of all of the promises God has made. It is a new season, a new year and a new life for us. We have faced some terrible challenges and yet, here we are, moving in the bright city, making plans for a glorious future. I pray God will continue to encourage and strengthen us. I need more days when the world is open with promise. So I have written a prayer for our new adventures to come.

Dear God, you did not hold back but gave us love made flesh. Help us to nurture and empower this child, and the love in each of us. May we be fearless in the face of rough roads, knowing you are with us. You have given us this child as the living reality of your love given to us all. May we take every day as a gift, trusting that we do not walk alone but are shrouded in the warmth and strength of your love. Amen.