Tuesday, November 30, 2021


The Apostle Peter is one of the early persons of humble beginnings to sign on to the Way of Jesus.  Known for his brash way of jumping in to volunteer an answer or an action to prove his "me first" undying love, he probably is better remembered for his flaming flop of denial near the end of Jesus' life. Peter though becomes The Rock on which the church comes to be and is looked back on in a lot of ways, at least within Roman Catholicism, as the first Pope. 

So, Peter is one of the many we'll come alongside of during this season who was living a small shallow existence until Jesus entered his life and suddenly that major fork in the road changed everything.  Peter is a study of someone who could enthusiastically leap when others would hold back waiting to be sure of their footing before stepping out. God must love the enthusiastic people like Peter.  Sure, they can make colossal miscalculations at times but how often does the Church's mission languish waiting for a brave soul to appear who will move it in the direction it needs to go?

So, to all those who are first with their hands up, first to race into any situation, first with a new idea, first to volunteer -- bless them!  Adventurous first responders are frequently the leaders who blaze new trails and open new doors that over time become the way most people come to accept.  When that door opens and someone is pulled by another's enthusiasm across the threshold into God's Realm, hope burns a little brighter and God smiles a bit more broadly.  The light of that broad smile is the light that spills out illuminating the darkness.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Joseph, God's Man of Honor

 We've made it just a few miles out of town. Mary has decided to get on the donkey for a bit.  Joseph and I are walking together leading the hesitant critter. Joseph is a man of few words and seems to be in a contemplative mood.  Perhaps he is in deep thought about what lays ahead? 

He has been unusually gentlemanly in comparison to his peers.  He is a number of years older than Mary, as is common in Nazareth. If most of his peers had a fiancĂ© who turned up pregnant, there would be a whole lot of shouting and ugliness. I said to him, "How has it happened that you and Mary stayed together when most of your peers would have dumped their betrotheds at best or had them stoned at worst?"  He said, "It's a story that not many could believe.  In short, an angel came to me and told me her child is of the Holy Spirit and God wanted us to go on with our plans to marry."  He went on, "If God spoke to you, wouldn't you listen?"  

"How do you know it was God speaking?" I asked.

"Well, here's the thing.  What is the most forgiving, loving action possible in this situation?  Because the answer to that has the watermark of God all over it."  


So often we lose sleep & overwork ourselves hoping, praying for God to drop the "right answer" in our laps.  We'll consult all kinds of other people on what to do - therapists, clergy, friends, family, self-help books, and even TV and internet... But, what a simple measuring stick: "What is the most forgiving, loving action possible?"  That points pretty clearly at the right answer you're looking for.  That is not to say the logic in that answer will resonate with all those consultants or with society in general. God does not define nor hold the keys to our community standards.  God holds the keys to life in the Realm of God.  This is a life powered by forgiveness and undergirded by the certainty

"that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, neither heights nor depths -- nor anything else in all creation-- will be able to separate us from the love of God..." (Romans 8:38-39 IB*)

Joseph showed us this way.  Even though his peers probably thought he was an idiot for believing Mary's fantastic story, his honor and respect for the loving direction God acclaims first through the angel and then that he sees get lived out in his son's life guides his decisions and his life.  

He takes a back seat in the rest of the Jesus narratives.  But in doing that he also takes the humble path, not needing to have a central stage when it is God in his child making all the points about how we need to live. 

This society has lost its ability to be like Joseph - kind, forgiving, loving, gracious, humble and honorable. In many places even the church has lost this capacity.  Church and society can't get back that capacity unless brave people be like Joseph.  Joseph proved himself to be an honorable successful human being in God's eyes.  Now that you know how he did it, how about you?    

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Blessed are you among women....

I awake early remembering that this is the day we set out. It is still dark and a thousand thoughts flood into my head about the trip ahead.  Mary and Joseph seemed a little gruff with each other last night.  It does seem pretty dumb that they have to travel like almost 100 miles on foot just so the Roman Emperor can count them. It isn't going to be easy with Mary so pregnant and their donkey is often not onboard with going where it's told.  We have decided not to travel through Samaria which adds a chunk to the trip.  I don't know what we'll eat or where, or where we'll sleep.  We don't have a lot of money for Holiday Inns even if they existed.  Fortunately, I suppose, we aren't going to look like wealthy travelers who would attract the attention of robbers.

I am quite in awe of Mary.  When she was a young girl, could either of her parents have imagined that she would grow into a young woman that God would choose to have bear the Christ Child?  What an extraordinary one-of-a-kind soul that takes.  Or does it? The pure Biblical witness (separate from the theological stumblings and ramblings of men drunk on and corrupted by power, greed, violence, and dominance) tells us we have been beloved, held, cared for from the beginning -- all of us. Furthermore, if we choose, are we not all called to take on the job of bearing the Christ Child to the world? How many of us refuse the offer?

Mary grabbed this vision with both hands and never looked back.  From a careful looking backwards into the Middle Eastern culture of her time many scholars have discerned that she was likely quite young - very young, in fact, for making such a monumental decision that would carry her to places she had no idea where it would lead.  She allowed Love to have an authority over what many of us would call "all common sense."  This decision did not win her wealth or success by worldly standards that spell out "what counts" in life.  But if her success is measured on how she is still known and revered in almost every corner of the earth two thousand years later, there are very few who can claim such a success.

The sun is up and it is time to set out for Bethlehem.  I am in the best of company today as I look forward to my day.  I wonder who else we'll meet on the way?  Stay tuned.

And Mary said,

"My soul proclaims your greatness, O God, and my spirit rejoices in you, my Savior, because you have looked with favor on the humble condition of your lowly servant.  Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed, because you, the Mighty One, have done great things for me, and holy is your name.  Your mercy is from generation to generation for those who fear you.  You have shown strength with your arm.  You have scattered the proud in their conceit; you have deposed the mighty from their thrones and raised the lowly to high places.  You have filled the hungry with good things, while you have sent the rich away empty. You have come to the aid of Israel, your servant, mindful of your mercy -- The promise you made to our ancestors, to Sarah and Abraham and their descendants forever."  (Luke 1: 46-55  IB*)  

*The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation,       

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Advent Pilgrimage

 Advent is my favorite season in the church liturgical year.  The sensuality of the season - the tastes, smells, sounds, sights, and feelings all associated with Christmas and its preparations supercharge the positive memories of Christmas I experienced annually as a child. Those memories along with the more focused spirituality just makes it easier to engage in reflection and meditation.

I have written devotion books in years past that I think are still for sale on Amazon.  Again this year, I am committing myself to write devotions more on the fly.  I even have a theme for this year.  It came to me the other morning just how many small insignificant people become giants through their faith-filled pilgrimages through life.  I invite you to join me in a pilgrimage this Advent where we walk alongside these people. Perhaps with them we can experience the perniciousness of God's Love that powered their successful spiritual journeys. 

Advent is frequently all about the Holy Family, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.  It is impossible to push them aside as they are central to the season.  But so many others have lived with similar lowly beginnings, humility, faithfulness, and devotion that I hope to gather these "giants" around us as we walk the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem.  Look for us to meet our first pilgrim on the First Sunday of Advent next week.