As I’ve been preparing to lead our group of youth and adult pilgrims to Banff this week, I have had the famous English hymn “To Be a Pilgrim” going through my head. Despite its 17th century protestant themes (it’s from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress of 1684), the hymn is useful for thinking about pilgrimage beyond the specific allegorical story for which it was composed. I think it is useful for meditation on the Christian life as pilgrimage from where we are to where God is.
Every year as summer approaches and the activities of the school year come to a halt, there is a discernible change in the DC and Alexandria region. Downtown neighborhoods are filled with families who go out to enjoy the beautiful weather on the weekends. Friends share summer vacation plans and meet up for picnics and music in the park. And eventually, the constant traffic we are all so accustomed to becomes a little less congested as people leave town or just slow down. Summers in our area are a special time, when the everyday pace of life slows a bit, and we’re invited to spend a little more time noticing God’s beauty all around us, in the quiet moments of leisure, the laughter of children playing, and the blooming flowers of summer.
Jesus said, "The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you." John 12:35
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Holy Week is the longest walk of the year. We begin the walk on the outskirts of Jerusalem, near the Mount of Olives, where the disciples throw their cloaks over a colt and Jesus climbs on. It is a ludicrous sight - a grown man on a colt, his feet dangling to the ground. Everyone knows that real kings ride great stallions, not donkeys. But Jesus chooses to be a living parable, a parable of humility. Jesus chooses to embrace seeming foolishness to reveal God's wisdom, seeming weakness to show us real strength.
Some children know how to speak God’s truth early on. Some are more reticent, but I think the best Christian formation helps them to realize that God has known them since before they were born, and that God’s word is part of them, to be shared with the world in a unique way. Adults who have had the experience of growing up in the faith can help children to know God. Curricula help in Christian formation, and content matters, but relationships and the encounter with God matter more. Adults and children together can meet God and become prophets, apostles and teachers to others. They may not realize it, but God’s words are in them, right in their mouths, ready to come out when God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, calls them forth.
Oh, what a beautiful and comical image the prophet Isaiah gives us for the world’s response to the messiah coming in Israel. Multitudes of camels! How extravagantly the world will welcome him! Imagine if a multitude of camels arrived at your door. It would be a bit overwhelming and disorganized. That’s probably why our friend John Henry Hopkins Jr. trimmed the number down to three bearing his three kings of Orient for his famous Epiphany hymn. It is a bit overwhelming and a bit strange to imagine the camels, and presumably their riders, from three whole nations arriving to see “the glory of the Lord.” (Is. 60:1), but that is what the prophet says will happen.
Merry Christmas! Finally being able to say that on the evening of December 24 (OK so, I might have said it once or twice before then) felt like finally exhaling after holding my breath for a really long time, the way some kids do on car trips when passing cemeteries or crossing bridges.
In the Third Chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus says at one point, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that all who believe in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
For years, I’ve often thought that that passage only referred to Jesus giving his life as a sacrifice on the cross. And to be sure, that is part of what it means. But some years ago I was reading a commentary by Raymond Brown, on the Gospel of John, and Professor Brown said that that passage not only speaks of Jesus willingly giving his life on the cross, but it actually speaks of Christmas, of God giving his very self, his very son to the world, not for anything God could get out of it, but for the good and the welfare and the well-being of the world. Of us.
One of our post communion prayers says: “send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord”… For me the “work” is activity that is in addition to my chosen profession as a Systems Analyst. I interpret being a “witness” as a demonstration or reflection of Jesus’s love to other people. The way I have chosen to witness this love has been through volunteering.
St. Luke’s is inviting all of us to do a very basic thing as special creatures of God, who is the very best and finest craftsman there is - to think, recall to memory, reflect on, and be grateful for, the many “freebies”* we have been given and received through our lives pursuant to* God’s immeasurable love and mercy to us all.
This week I am grateful for the surprising ways that God takes care of us physically, emotionally and spiritually. It is a common theme in scripture to remind the people of God that their efforts are not what upholds the world and all living things, but God’s creating, sustaining and redeeming power. Our work as individuals, families and communities is all in response to God’s gift of our lives. It is this acknowledgement that everything belongs to God, including us, that makes care for others, service in the world and stewardship of resources and creation possible. Realizing that nothing we own or gain is ours opens us to a life that is less self-interested and more oriented toward service of others.