Of all the events contributing to the powerful and many-faceted legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the speech he gave at the March on Washington in 1963 is probably the most famous. The dream he articulated to and for our nation has echoed among us ever since he described it on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The challenges posed by the truths he shared that day remain with us, and many acknowledge it as one of the most influential orations of the 20th century….
Sunday being the first Sunday after Epiphany, we remember Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River. It marks the beginning of his ministry.
As John is baptizing others, Jesus arrives to be baptized as well. Luke doesn’t shed many details on the story. What he does share gets right to the heart of the story. As Jesus emerges from the waters, the Holy Spirit descends on him. Then the voice of God speaks from heaven. “YOU ARE MY SON.”
This baptism launches Jesus’ Spirit-filled mission. What begins as an unassuming baptism in the river ends with power and affirmation….
“Perhaps the World Ends Here” by Joy Harjo
The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been
since creation, and it will go on.
We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners.
They scrape their knees under it.
It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human.
We make men at it, we make women.,,,,,
Christmas can be a time of year where there is quite a lot of activity and bustling and “too-much-ness,” even in the midst of a continually evolving pandemic. And yet, the iconic story of the birth of Jesus actually has a stillness and simplicity to it. The Christmas star shines in the quiet night, leading us to the hope, promise, and joy in the birth of our Savior….
On a day that was cold as only cold in NYC can be—temperatures necessitating multiple layers for warmth, wind that makes you gasp—I was walking down Ninth Avenue on my way to work. Like everyone else on the street that morning, my head was down, and I was moving forward as fast as I could toward my destination. No one was dawdling. No one was talking, even. Everyone just wanted to get from their own personal point A to point B where more civilized temperatures might await.
Suddenly, I heard a loud laugh, followed by an “Oh Wow!!” I looked up and saw a man stopped in the middle of pedestrian traffic and looking down at a glove on the sidewalk. Out loud, and to no one in particular, he exclaimed, “I lost this yesterday. I didn’t know where it was; I thought it was gone for good. I must have dropped it when I was walking, and here it is! Still! Right where I left it!”…
There are only 15 days left before Christmas. As the calendar ticks off successive days in December, now it’s stress and panic that build. The list of what still needs to be accomplished casts a long shadow across the shrinking amount of time to accomplish it all.
The first evident signs typically start on the weekend after Thanksgiving. Many put up their Christmas lights while the weather is still relatively temperate.
There are also those who are very organized, who conduct their Christmas shopping throughout the year. When they see something that looks like the perfect gift for someone they know, they purchase it immediately. All of their gifts are safely wrapped and squirreled away before the first of December. Others do their entire gift shopping on the day before Christmas….
Episcopal priest, author and contemplative retreat leader Cynthia Borgeault tells a story about Fr. Thomas Keating teaching a class on centering prayer. One of the central aspects of practicing this type of prayer focuses on calming the mind as it does what the mind is wont to do: jump manically from thought to thought to thought. Centering Prayer involves sitting in silence, acknowledging each and every thought as it emerges, and then simply (!) letting it go….
This Sunday we will mark the beginning of Advent, the time of preparation for the impending celebration of Christmas. As we continue to navigate our way through this time of Covid, we might have fewer parties or gatherings to attend this season. It might be an opportunity to embrace a quieter Advent, a more introspective and spiritual season. Putting together an Advent Wreath for your home might particularly help you to reorient your focus, or you can even simply light a candle in the evening and say a prayer or two….
One of the anecdotes that gets trucked out when churches ask for money describes someone who has died and approaches the pearly gates with great expectations. The deceased sees St. Peter standing sentry, and immediately launches in on a list of their virtues. On and on they go, including every good deed, every generous thought. Finally, St. Peter has had enough. “I don’t need to hear any of this,” he says. “Just show me your bank statement and I will have all the information I need.”
We are often reminded that the subjects of money, possessions, and allocation of resources are mentioned twice as much as any other topics in Scripture. One third of Jesus’ parables have something to do with making right use of our gifts—all of them, financial and otherwise. And “right use,” in biblical terms, is always connected to our trust and faith in God as well as our commitment to justice and support both of those we love and those among us who struggle….
We’re getting closer to the end of our church year. In fact in a few Sundays, it will be the beginning of the Advent season. The Church’s New Year.
In our Gospel lesson for this Sunday Christ disciples make reference to the large buildings, temples if you will, to which Christ tells them “not one stone will be left here upon another, all will be thrown down.” The end of things as they see them or as some would say the end of times as you know them….