December 30, 2018 – January 5, 2019

December 30, 2018 – January 5, 2019
The greatest gift on Christmas is to open wide God’s gift to earth: ended is the ancient divorce between the sacred and the secular; all life and matter have become enfleshed in God. The vision proclaimed by the prophets predicted as coming… “in those days” has arrived…the reign or age of God has begun. It is fitting to count our blessings in being so gifted as to live in this time of the reign of God on earth.

The year winds down…while traditionally a night to bid farewell to the old year and welcome in the new with parties and noise making, we also remember to pray in thanksgiving for all that has been, and to request grace and courage for 2019.

On this night of the changing of years, it was held that just before midnight every door should be opened to allow the spirit of the old year to exit from your home and to welcome in the new. A symbolic action. However you spend this last day of 2018, here is my message to you:

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Happy circling and a happy fresh and brand-new year as you change calendars, soul clocks and yourself.

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December 23 – 29, 2018

December 23 – 29, 2018

 

There is one word that describes the night Jesus came…ordinary. The sky was ordinary. An occasional gust stirred the leaves and chilled the air. Fleets of clouds floated in front of the moon. It was a beautiful night…a night worth peeking out your bedroom window to admire—but not really an unusual one. No reason to expect a surprise. Nothing to keep a person awake. An ordinary night with an ordinary sky.

 

The sheep were ordinary. Some fat. Some scrawny. Some with barrel bellies. Some with twig legs. Common animals. No fleece made of gold. No history makers here. No blue ribbon winners. They were simply sheep—lumpy sleeping silhouettes on a hillside. And the shepherds. Peasants they were. Probably wearing all the clothes they owned. Smelling like sheep and looking just as woolly. They were conscientious, willing to spend the nights with their flocks. But you won’t find their staffs in museums nor their writings in a library. They were nameless and simple. An ordinary night with ordinary sheep and ordinary shepherds. And were it not for a God who loves to surprise, the night would have gone unnoticed. The sheep would have been forgotten and the shepherds would have slept the night away.

 

However, God dances amidst the ordinary. And that night God did a waltz. The black sky exploded with brightness. Trees that had been shadows jumped into clarity. Sheep that had been silent became a chorus of curiosity. One minute the shepherd was sound asleep, the next he was rubbing his eyes and staring into the face of surprise. The night was ordinary no more.

 

The angel came in the night because that is when the lights are best seen and that is when they are most needed. God comes into the ordinary for the same reason. God’s most powerful tools are the most simple.

 

The shepherds didn’t ask if God knew what God was doing. Had the angels gone to the theologians, they would have first consulted their commentaries. Had the angels gone to the elite, they would have looked to see if anyone was watching. Had the angels gone to the successful, they would have had to consult their calendars. So the angel went to the shepherds. Persons who didn’t have a protection to protect or an ax to grind or a ladder to climb. Persons who didn’t know enough to tell God that angels don’t sing to sheep and that Messiahs are not found wrapped in rags and sleeping in a feed trough.

 

A small cathedral outside Bethlehem marks the supposed birthplace of Jesus. Behind a high altar in the church is a cave, a little cavern lit by silver lamps. You can enter the main edifice and admire the ancient church. You can also enter the quiet cave where a star is embedded in the floor recognizes the birth of Jesus. There is one stipulation, however. You have to stoop. The door is so low you can’t go in standing up.

 

So, while the theologians were sleeping, and the elite were dreaming, and the successful were snoring, the meek, the peace-filled were kneeling. They were kneeling before the One only the meek and peace-filled will see. They were kneeling in front of Jesus the Christ!

 

May each of you be blessed with meekness and peace. God bless us everyone!

December 16 – 22, 2018

December 16 – 22, 2018

 

There was something unroyal about him: no pretense, no ambition, no limousine, no army, no coercion, no royal marking. The Jesus who shows up amid royal hopes and songs is a whole new reality: powerful in weakness, rich in poverty, wise in foolishness. He is beyond all usual categories of power because he embodies the gentle, gracious, resilient, all-encompassing power of God.

Christmas is not just about a baby and all of the romantic business. Christmas is about a word from God addressed to the world. Christmas is the celebration of the new decision of God. “To you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” Not Caesar in Rome, not Herod in Jerusalem, not Pilate as governor, not all the presidents and premiers and executives and generals, not any of them will be king because the world has turned a new way. It has turned so that a king shall come from Bethlehem, not from the great city, but from a little city with no room in the inn.

But just think what this means. It means, to anybody who knows, that the promises of God have been kept. He is faithful. He has not reneged. Two thousand years ago he promised to send a true David who would turn the world back to sanity. The Christmas event in Bethlehem makes no sense unless we allow that it is a fresh decision from God himself about the new shape of the world.

It is now up to us, amid the season’s greetings, warm wishes and festive celebrations, to reach out and launch ourselves in this new world, a world that is still struggling and in need. A world that has, at times, lost its sense of integrity, civility and right. A world that limps along perhaps because we are not serious enough about discipleship, about being gospel people. I/you can’t solve, get rid of all of the bad stuff, but I dare say, we might start someplace near us. Make sure there is room in the inn of our hearts for those near us who despair, those who are in the margins. There’s still time to go the extra mile.

Peace, good people. Make merry and celebrate for Jesus is with us, surrounds us, enfolds us and wants only what is best for us. Gaudate! BREATHE.

“Come, Lord Jesus” each and every day into our hearts.

December 9 – 15, 2018

December 9 – 15, 2018

 

20181020_103601What Jews and Christians have in common is that we believe that there is one who is coming to make the world right. (“Come, Lord Jesus.”) We believe that God’s promise to make the world whole and safe and peaceable is real. We believe that this one to come to make all things new and good and safe and whole is a human agent, a human person who is committed to God’s way. We believe that the dreams of heaven will come to be earthly reality, which is why we pray regularly, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

What distinguishes Christians from all others is that we believe that this one who is to come from God has already come and begun his work in us. It is Jesus of Nazareth. From the beginning we have listened to his teaching and noticed his wisdom. We have noticed his attentiveness to the needs of the poor and the lame and the lepers. We have watched as he gives new life where none seemed possible. We have noticed and concluded that God’s power for life is present in Jesus, and we believe, as Jews wait for the Messiah, that this Messiah-Christ, Jesus, will come again to make the world right.

Sit up. Look around. Advent is time to ponder and notice what has already begun because Jesus the Christ has already been here. Let’s be reminded too, that in baptism, we Christians have signed on for the work of justice and righteousness and compassion and forgiveness that is the hallmark of God’s presence in Jesus. We who have committed ourselves to cooperate with Christ in the spiritual renewal of the world call out “Come, Lord Jesus, give us the genuine gumption to point the way through our acts of kindness, sacrifice and mercy.”

As we “breathe” our way through Advent, we are invited to grow and to position our lives so that we do not miss what God is doing in the wide expanse of the world. May we slow down, spread out our whole lives before God and practice watching for where the light of God is falling. May we catch a glimpse of this holy light, of the lives and places in the world that need our attention and are illumined by God’s radiance so as to draw us near. May we keep settling into Advent with a deep desire to see and attend to what matters to God.

 

Breathing deeply we whisper “Come, Lord Jesus.”

December 2-7

It’s a beautiful day. The sun is shining. The grass is lushly green. The sky is robin egg blue. Jesus goes off with his friends to pray. Crowds followed. Darn it! No peace and quiet this afternoon. The Christ recognizes their needs, the need to hear the good news of God’s generous love, and the need for nourishment. And so he feeds them…all 5,000 of them.

His friends didn’t quite get it. How could he feed such a crowd? Five loaves, two fish…that’s like one man’s lunch! But Jesus took what was there and acted on it in his compassionate, generous way. “He took, he blessed, he broke, he gave.” Jesus takes the ordinary stuff of life in all its scarcity and transforms it into God’s self-giving generosity. The outcome was that “all ate and were filled.” But that’s not all: there were twelve baskets left over (enough bread for all of the tribes of Israel).

His friends, and even us, are often a little slow, unwilling to learn what this new data of Jesus means, unwilling to recognize that the world is changed by Jesus, even unable to act differently in the new world of Jesus. (See, I make all things new.)

Here’s the thing: the news that is proclaimed in Christ’s coming is that he has turned the world into abundance. God is the gift who keeps on giving, and the people around Jesus are empowered to receive abundance and to act generously by paying it forward.

Every day, all day. It’s still true. “He takes, he blesses, he breaks, he gives.” And yet we are still astonished about the surplus. It is there for all of us with eyes to see, with ears to hear, and with hearts to remember. We are recipients of enough and enough and more than enough… enough and enough and more than enough to share. And to be glad in this giver who keeps on giving, endlessly.

This is why we continue to say, “Come, Lord Jesus.”  Come and teach us how to take, bless, break and give. Teach us how to better cooperate with you in the spiritual renewal of the world. The world is waiting breathlessly for us to step up, for us to take the ordinary stuff of life in all its scarcity and transform it to renew the face of the earth. Yes, indeed, “Come, Lord Jesus.” Breathe…

November 25 – December 1, 2018

November 25 – December 1, 2018

 

Advent. A new season. Anticipation. In the midst of busyness, shopping, baking and a million other activities, anticipation. Expectation. It’s so easy to follow what society tells us to do. (My goodness, Christmas started to “appear” even before we began to think about Halloween!) We are in a spin. The flurry of activity ramps up.

Advent. Get ready. It’s right around the corner. Time to make a change this year. Let’s breathe. Deeply, evenly. And while we’re doing that, let’s affirm that God surrounds us, enfolds us, wants only what is best for us. That’s right, breathe on purpose. Lean into the Advent space. Relax.

Learn to wait well. Stretch toward God. Grow in the expectation of what the coming of Christ can mean for a waiting world. May we, each of us, seek and find our place in the unfolding story of Christ. Richard Rohr reminds us that during this season we’re not waiting for the baby Jesus. After all, we Franciscans have always believed that the Incarnation was already our redemption because in Jesus’ birth God was saying that it was good to be human, and that God is on our side. We, then, wait for so much more.

While Jesus walked on this earth, he often talked about the coming of the “the reign of God, the Kingdom of God.” As adults it doesn’t seem acceptable that we settle for the coming of a sweet baby who asks little of us in terms of surrender, encounter or focusing on the actual teachings of Jesus. If we are serious this Advent it’s time we accept that the Word of God confronts, converts and consoles us. Take a look around you. Although our world is beautiful, it’s in trouble. We can’t just settle for a story about a baby.

Jesus is Lord of all creation. This was the rallying cry of the early church. It is to this adult and cosmic Christ that we say, “Come, Lord Jesus.” This is ultimately what we wait for…a Jesus who wants to make all things new, a Jesus who considers us co-creators as we cooperate in the spiritual renewal of the world. Does our Advent stand up against the ways of the world? Do we take time to live fully into the meaning and experience of the coming of Christ? It is time to anticipate the FULL story and meaning of Emmanuel…God-with-us. BREATHE. Newness is on the way!

November 18 – 24, 2018

November 18 – 24, 2018

As we reach this extensive holiday season (it’s a slippery slope), the turkey is in the oven, filling the air with the fragrance of anticipation, and hearts are glad. The pies are cooling on the rack, overflowing with the fruits of the earth, and our hearts are full. Conversation, companionship and joy transform the rooms of our homes and our hearts are at peace.

Soon, dear ones, family and cherished friends, will gather at the table to rejoice in honor of our blessings, and with us lift up their hearts in thanksgiving. As the table is set, our hearts gratefully remember the legacy of love and tradition that surrounds us.

This is good. This is very good. Let us hold on to this authentic moment. Let us cherish the feeling of complete contentment. Let us rejoice and praise the Giver of all good. Come, thankful brothers and sisters, come. Offer grace for the bounty of goodness. Raise the song of harvest home, the glass of good cheer, the heart over-flowing with joy. We have so much for which to be thankful. So much about which to smile, so much to share. So much…all we have is all we need. It is indeed time to share our bounty with others.

O beloved spirit, truly you have given us so much, an extravagance of riches. Give us, we pray, just one thing more…the gift of grateful hearts, hearts that will not forget what you have done.

PS…Have you noticed the squirrels are diligently gathering nuts for the winter? HELP! A couple of my friends are missing. Are you in a safe place? Take cover!