Monday, October 31, 2016

Looking for Jesus

... in our homes.
... in our neighborhood.
... in our city.
... in our world.

An old red candle, the shape of a milk carton. Made of old red crayons, poured into the form the milk carton made. And then drizzled with more warm red wax, to make an uneven and intriguing surface. Light it up and strange shadows gleam. This is a Christmas candle, lit every year in my childhood home.

Another candle, lighter wax, smoother surface: it too is lit every year.

And so are the four little candles on the base of the merry-go-round of four trumpeting angels, winged and circling the flames, the heat, and the light of the joyful announcement of Christ's birth.

Bread. On the table. Cornbread, hot. French bread, crusty and cold. Tortillas, warm from the oven, warmed with a cloth - or quickly flapped across an open flame on a gas stove. Pita, served at a tent-topped restaurant in Nazareth - just a memory, as we gather. Family time, around the table. Hearth.

Somewhere in the middle of this a baby is born, a cry is heard, a life is begun. In the breaking of the bread a new sense of being is released into our lives.

Far away from here, outside our doors. The neighbors. Once you open that door, you're on. The set that is outside your front door is the beginning of the movie. You step outside and you are a character - in somebody's movie. Will it be yours? Will the director be a stranger? Or will you be in better hands?

The neighbor - is that your friend? Not likely, not necessarily. But still, your neighbor. The ones living closest to you. Probably the air you breathe is their breath. Mingled with the city's airs.

The city holds ... quiet times in the midst of danger. A car sweeps by, blocks away. Distant sobbing is heard. Lights dim, go out. Dawn rises, and the symphony begins. Where is Jesus?

Where is Jesus in your home? your neighborhood? your city? Where is Jesus in the world?

We used to sing a song, "Have you seen Jesus my Lord?" by John Fischer, junior high counselor at Mount Hermon Camp and Conference Center in the Santa Cruz Mountains. We sang it in Young Life meetings. Have you seen him? In clouds, in sunsets - in the natural world. In your brother's eyes - that is home and family, or stranger: the world of people. Have you seen Jesus? Will you see Jesus?

Imagine him come into your world. Your home. Your neighbors' houses. Your city streets. Is he welcome?

How can you possibly prepare for a guest like that? Will you know him when you see him?

He'll know you. We're all sure of that.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Litany for Thanksgiving 2016

For the world we have before us, for its wonders, gifts, and sorrows; for it is home for us:

Let us give thanks.

For the people of the world, its nations, tribes, clans, and destinies; for the children, women and men who enrich our lives and those friends we have yet to meet:

Let us give thanks.

For this country and all the people in it, for the hope that sustains us, and the civility that can guide our common life:

Let us give thanks.

For the gift of the night, for preparedness for tomorrow, for anxiety and fear and the hope and courage that overcome them:

Let us give thanks.

For each other, for ourselves:

Let us give thanks.

For forgiveness and love:

Let us give thanks.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Daily Bread

A Religious Response to Climate Change – III: Our Daily Bread
Saturday, October 29, 2016. St. Michael and All Angels Church. Tucson.

As a religious people, who pray for our daily bread, we seek understanding, wisdom and courage to take informed actions as good stewards of God’s creation.

Theological reflections: spiritual context for environmental actions

Sherman Johnson, our New Testament professor, taught a prayer he was sure that Jesus prayed:
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech haolam, hamotzi lechem min ha-aretz.

We praise You, Eternal God, Sovereign of the universe, who causes bread to come forth from the earth.

That is the prayer over the bread, at a passover supper. “He took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to his friends…” So it is part of our tradition, too. When Jesus blessed God in this prayer he was giving thanks to the Creator, the One from whom all our blessings come forth.

Jesus, we are told, taught his disciples another prayer, which included the petition, “Give us this day our daily bread.” We do not live on bread alone, but we sure need it. Like words from the mouth of God, it is necessary for our lives. We are dependent on God, for everything from the words of Scripture to the morsels and crusts we may gather on our worst, most desperate, days.

Jesus was however the proclaimer of a kingdom not of scarce resources but of abundance. And out of that abundance we are grateful and receive our sustenance. Not for ourselves only, but for the whole of the human race, and the whole of creation. All beings require sustenance from God. God is the only source of life.

And this is our only planet. (At least until 2030 if NASA’s new dreams come true.) So we better take care of it. Treat it as a gift - a gift to steward and cherish and care for. For now we are the generations with this responsibility. And we are the ones who will pass on the joy of that care.

Here are some Scripture passages to reflect on together during our lunch break, and to discuss at our tables.

Genesis 1: 9-13  And God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.’ And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

What does it mean to be born amid such splendor? What does it mean to us to be part of this creation? What does it mean, that God called it good?

Genesis 1: 28-30 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and master it. Take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, and everything crawling on the ground.” Then God said, “I now give to you all the plants on the earth that yield seeds and all the trees whose fruit produces its seeds within it. These will be your food. To all wildlife, to all the birds in the sky, and to everything crawling on the ground—to everything that breathes—I give all the green grasses for food.” And that’s what happened.

What does it mean to be stewards of the earth? What does it mean to be told to “take charge” of other creatures of God? What does it mean to receive as gifts the fruit of the earth to eat?

Isaiah 25.6: On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
  a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines,
  of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear.

Mark 14: 22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.”

1 Corinthians 11: 24 After giving thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this to remember me.”

What bread did he lift up? Why was it sacred? What were they expecting it to mean that day? And what transformation took place? In them? Can we any longer be indifferent to our role as stewards of the earth? Can we look upon the gift of bread as ordinary, knowing whom it meant?

This morning already some of us at eight o’clock or soon thereafter took into our hands a tiny wafer, a symbol of the holy meal Christ shared with his first disciples. When Mary and John and James and Andrew and Peter and the rest of them received the bread from his hands, what did they make of it? And what did it make of them?

What does it make of us?

And what are we to make of our world, knowing what we know? Of it, of its condition, of our charge of stewardship? Of the sacredness of the ground, the water and the sky? Knowing what we know, what action are we called to take? Today or for ever? Practical or symbolic? How shall we now live, with this ‘actionable knowledge’ of the earth’s condition, and our survival?

Are we dependent creatures? Are we powerful actors in our own lives, and the lives of others? Are we not both.

Jesus took the bread and broke it and gave it to his disciples and said: This is my body.

All are welcome at the Lord’s table.