Friday, November 02, 2007
For a portion of the beautiful sermon Pastor David Miller preached in chapel yesterday, check out this link: http://www.prayingthemystery.blogspot.com/
(scroll down to November 1, 2007)
Friday, October 19, 2007
It happened around the supper table at the University of Iowa. I was talking with Laura, a student who was there because she is interested in exploring where God is calling her to go next. Suddenly, as she told me about her parents and dreams, something clicked and I really SAW her. "O Laura," I said with surprise, "We know each other!" She said back, "You're Joy!"
Both of us had aged quite a bit since we saw each other last but Laura is the only child of very good friends of my parents. The kind of friends who come faithfully to the funeral of your grandparent, even if they haven't seen you for awhile before that. It was an incredible experience to be sitting face-to-face with someone and then suddenly, to recognize her as family.
I was very moved by this experience along the journey in Iowa, but maybe not so surprised now that I think about it. This is what happens in the family of God. Suddenly, as we listen, we come face-to-face with someone we know, we love, we recognize as family - and at the same time, we are fully known. And in the meal, we experience the body of Christ.
Giving thanks for witnesses along the way,
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
ELCA Seminary Admissions Directors, Jonathan Strandjord (ELCA Vocation and Education Unit) and Paul Hanson (ELCA Fund for Leaders in Mission)
In the autumn of each year, the seminary admissions directors gather for an annual meeting hosted by one of the seminaries of the ELCA. Why? So that we might work together as collaboratively as possible in connecting with pontential leaders of the church. Why? Because God calls us to this way and this work for the building up of the whole church. We don't work together because "we're such nice people" but because Jesus calls us to be one body.
What a blessing to be able to serve not only LSTC, a place of theological education, formation & community that I love, but to keep a bigger picture of the gift and diversity of seminary education in the ELCA in mind. I am doubly blessed.
This year, we met at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary - my first time in beautiful South Carolina! There was wisdom, struggle and laughter shared around that table. Now our group is divided into two--visiting Lutheran colleges and campus ministries in North Carolina and South Carolina. It's incredible to be a witness to the many and varied ministries happening throughout the church--Lutheran Social Services, the incredible work of campus pastors, religion faculty and all who serve in Lutheran colleges, not to mentioned some very gifted churchwide staff.
Tonight, we'll hear about the Young Adults in Global Mission program from Franklin Ishida. If you are a young adult or know a young adult who might consider a year of faithful, global service, please check this website: http://www.elca.org/globalserve/youngadults/index.html
And of course, if God is calling you to rostered leadership in the church (or simply to seminary), don't hesitatae to be in contact with me.
In thanks for God's bold call,
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Now, though, we are into full-fledged autumn. Now is the time when some of you from various places are wondering--where will my path lead next? I remember (and still experience) the feeling of looking into the misty future and wondering where I will be next, after that bend in the road.
Andrew Greeley writes in his book Life for a Wanderer, "The Christian knows, vaguely at least, where he is going, but he is not quite sure how, specifically, he is going to get there. Hence he is forced to be experimental, to try one path for a time, but to be prepared always to cast these charts aside when a better set is offered. To change the image somewhat, she is like a sailor who adjusts the sails on her ship with the changing directions of the wind, since she knows as every good sailor does that the wind is inclined to blow whither it will."
For all of you who are wondering if it is time for your journey to take a turn, if it's time for you to travel light, to play it by ear... you are in my joy-filled prayers. That God might guide you, that Jesus might point you to those people who can help discern next steps, that the Spirit may fill your heart with power to move to the music.
And for all whose path may be winding this way, if God is leading you here to LSTC, we can't wait to welcome you!
In joy and welcome,
Monday, July 23, 2007
Longing for light, we wait in darkness.
Longing for truth, we turn to you.
Make us your own, your holy people,
light for the world to see.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in our hearts. Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in your church gathered today.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Why? It's no secret that outdoor ministries are a place where people hear God's call. Maybe it's because in that "place apart," we can see our lives with new eyes. Maybe it's because dedicated camp staff remind us to keep listening. Maybe it's because we get to experience God's incredible creation all around us and God seems nearer... but for whatever reason, discernment about where God is calling us in life and how God is calling us to serve often happen in camp settings. So, we want to be there.
We come as people with listening ears, open hearts and an exciting story to tell about the possibility of seminary as a training ground on a ministry journey.
As for me, I'm off this weekend to Nebraska - first for an Operation IDEA retreat (if you haven't heard about this amazing Nebraska program, check out their website - http://www.operationidea.org/) and then to Camp Carole Joy Holling (http://www.nlom.org/)
Can't wait to share a photo here when I get back!
On the way,
It was an incredible three weeks. Eighteen high school youth, mostly "rising juniors," gathered from all over the USA at LSTC for a program of immersion first in the city of Chicago and then in Mexico City. In the photo, we're "all cleaned up" for Sunday worship but these were not the only faces we saw during that transformative time. We saw faces with furrowed brows as we did the hard work of preparing to enter another culture. We saw faces bursting with laughter as youth totally enjoyed each other's company. We saw faces crumpled with tears at the injustices we witnessed. We saw faces absorbed in prayer. We saw faces totally wired from the intense games of ultimate frisbee. And on and on...
It was an honor and a privilege to make this strenuous and incredible journey with 18 youth, 5 seminary mentors, Heather Wallace (program director) and other faithful adults (those who accompanied, trained, taught). We were blessed to be hosted in Mexico by the Lutheran Center in Mexico City. http://www.elca.org/mexico/ During the whole three weeks, we talked about God's call for all the baptized.
Do you know a youth who will be a sophomore in high school this fall? Please pass on word about this incredible program for vocational formation. Dates for next summer's program will be posted on the LSTC website this fall. http://www.lstc.edu/
In gratitude and delight,
Saturday, June 09, 2007
It's so true. But not only college students need a place to do this. Throughout life, we need community with those who sit with us--or run with us--and talk about next steps.
Thanks to future LSTC seminarian Laura Gerstl, Pastor Brad Brown and Pastor Christine Thompson (pictured here) for they great ministry they have done and are doing at Marquette and UWM... and for all those who meet us at the crossroads of life and discern with us next directions.
As we venture on,
Sunday, May 13, 2007
In the midst of all these partings, we walked through the baptismal waters. We remembered together that we are washed as we go from here--whether we go far away or come back tomorrow, wherever we go. We go on this life journey singing:
Oh how deep your holy wisdom.
Unimagined, all your ways.
To your name be glory, honor.
With our lives we worship, praise.
We your people stand before you,
water-washed and Spirit-born.
By your grace, our lives we offer.
Recreate us; God, transform! -ELW 445
And in this time of saying goodbye, there was an opportunity for gratitude. I received a gift this week--a beautiful photo that one of our senior students took in Hong Kong of a place of prayer. This gift was a wonderful surprise, prodding me to be mindful of my deep thanks for this creative and dedicated servant-leader and so many people whose paths have crossed mine this past year. Thanks be to God who keeps recreating and transforming us.
In grace and gratitude,
Friday, April 27, 2007
You might almost miss this verse in the larger reading describing death and destruction. In fact, you could make an argument that this phrase is taken completely out of context since all around it, the vision is exposing harm and hurt. As John describes the reality of the Roman empire’s brutal impact on the communities he loves, he describes, almost like a newscaster, how they have come conquering and to conquer, removed peace from the earth so that people slaughter one another, live in brutal financial arrangements that starve people, kill in numerous ways… in John’s vision, even the earth is experiencing havoc—earthquakes and stars falling like a fruit tree that drops its fruit when shaken by a gale.
Really, it kind of sounds like our news. We hear at least daily of efforts in Iraq to conquer and of those lost in that effort. This morning in the Des Moines Register, I read John Carlson’s reflections on hearing an early morning report of 9 dead and 20 wounded from the 82nd Airbourne—and his dreadful waiting for a knock, a call because as he writes, “my family has someone in Iraq.”
We reel from the stories of killing at Virginia Tech: survivor Erin Sheehan in Norris room 207 said she doesn’t know how she wasn’t shot. As she lay motionless, people lay in every direction from her, and she could hear the sounds of their dying [NPR Morning Edition].
We heard the witness last night at the Hunger Banquet in Peace Dining Room of the brutal economics in our world—the problem isn’t that we don’t have enough food and resources to go around—it’s unfair and inadequate distribution that is starving children, not to mention mothers, to death.
And I heard this week, it a report from peach farmers throughout Alabama who experienced an unseasonable 20 degree cold snap, their grief at losing their entire fruit crop. “You look out and all the fruit is on the ground. There’s not one thing left on the tree. It makes you want to cry.” [NPR Morning Edition]
If we can relate to John’s revealing vision—it’s because the deep pain and need of our world is all around us—and as far as I can tell, this isn’t because we’re living in the “end times”—this is because empire-building, violent grasping for power, abuse of the earth, greed…because all of this sin and brokenness is present in our world today.
The good news is that there is an alternative to selling our souls to empire. We do not have to be paralyzed in the face of all this because there is another, truer, deeper story woven through the book of Revelation – through this vision of John – a story of hope that reminds us of God’s call and God’s promise. Like this little seed within the destruction - “Hurt not the earth or the sea or the trees” - we are bordered front and back by violence and death. But the violence described in chapter 6 is also bordered/bracketed/bookended – it is surrounded on every side by the power of the Lamb.
In the Easter texts of Revelation 5, we hear - “Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever.” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!”
And we are moving on to the text that comes this next Sunday in chapter 7, “They will hunger no more, and thirst no more, the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
“Lamb power,”*as this power is described in Rev. Dr. Barbara Rossing’s book The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation, is a very different kind of power—power in vulnerability, power in sacrifice, power in singing, power in worship—this is the power that is given by the Holy Spirit who calls and gathers, enlightens and sanctifies God’s people… for a purpose.
The hope and promise that permeates Revelation is not for some far-off day when we die and thus escape the realities of the world—no way! The hope and promise is to give us a glimpse of God’s vision, God’s reality, God’s way… and the part that each of us can play in bringing that vision to life in our daily work and living.
It’s a little like that piece of wisdom that is sometimes attributed to Martin Luther, “If I was told that world was going to end tomorrow—today, I would plant a tree.” Why? Well not because he was an eccentric man out of touch with reality… but because of his continued faith in God’s work of healing, renewal and reconciliation on earth.
We are called to be a part of this vision of hope—through who we are & what we say & do. Another name for that is vocation. I know, I know… if you’ve heard that word once in this chapel, you’ve heard it a thousand times.
But I think why we’re so obsessed with it is all of us know how hard it is in the crazy busyness, demands and pain of every day life to have a vision of the whole—God’s vision, my vision, the world’s deep need, my deep joy, how these intersect and come together. We need the reminder in our vocation as students, teachers and staff; as sons and daughters, parents, friends, or whatever our role in this place and time. There is a part for us to play in bringing hope into the world.
And whatever vocation God is calling us toward, there will be a part for us to play in bringing hope into the world.
Not unlike the jazz that surrounds this word in chapel this morning, we come together: trumpet, saxophone, drum, piano, trombone, voice… we come together to practice the way our songs together will flow. The melody is shared around. Solos are backed up and supported by the group. We improvise. There is give and take. Together, we make music that permeates the room, that will be in us throughout the day, maybe longer.
Today, God is calling you and me to be the change we want to see in the world, the jazz musicians, spirit-filled act-ors, proclaimers of hope … like the tree of life found at the end of the story in Revelation 22, whose branches hold 12 kinds of fruit and whose leaves are for the healing of the nations, we are called to bear fruit and bring healing, we are nourished by living waters… we freed by the power of the Holy Spirit to set others free. Freed by the power of the Holy Spirit to be and become the people God is creating us to be. God is not done with us yet…God is not just leaving us to destruction… instead, we are like the seed, in fertile ground, and the Spirit whispers, “Grow, grow, grow.”
Monday, April 16, 2007
Monday, April 09, 2007
When we are walking, doubtful and dreading, blinded by sadness, slowness of heart, yet Christ walks with us, ever awaiting our invitation: Stay, do not part.
Lo, I am with you, Jesus has spoken. This is Christ's promise, this is Christ's sign: when the church gathers, when bread is broken, there Christ is with us in bread and wine.
Christ, our companion, hope for the journey, bread of compassion, open our eyes. Grant us your vision, set all hearts burning that all creation with you may rise.
"Day of Arising," by Susan Palo Cherwien, ELW 374
In resurrection hope and vision,
Saturday, April 07, 2007
So now, as we take the next steps into the wilderness into which God is sending us now; as the human creature has moved from being the hunter/gatherer to the land-worker to the city-dweller to the trveller in the skies, we must move on to a way of life where we are so much God's one people that warfare is no longer even a possibility. It is that, or dis-aster, and we must not let Satan, the great separator, win.
The phrase, "the butterfly effect," comes from the language of physics. It is equally the language of poetry, and of theology. For the Christian, the butterfly has long been a symbol of resurrection.
The butterfly emerges from the cocoon, its wings, wet with rebirth, slowly opening, and then this creature of fragile loveliness flies across the blue vault of sky.
Butterflies and angels, seraphim and cherubim, call us earthbound creatrues to lift up our mortal dust and sing with them, to God's delight.
Holy. Holy. Holy!
From Glimpses of Grace by Madeleine L'Engle
On this night of fire, journey through our storied past, baptismal waters and finally... resurrection!
Friday, April 06, 2007
Here it was August, but I found myself thinking of Holy Week. Lonely week. The most painful part of the story. Jesus, at the end of his earthly mission, facing failure, abandonment, death.
What kept Jesus going? What keeps us going when we're in the middle of the worst of it? The knowledge that we are loved by our Creator. Everybody else left Jesus. The disciples, those he had counted on to be with him to the end, all left him in the Garden. No one understood who he was, what he was about, what he had come for. How many times in our lives have we faced that utter and absolute abandonment? Jesus knew that his mission had been high, and it was in ruins about his feet.
He stood in front of Pontius Pilate and he held to his mission and his position because of love, God's love, which did not fail, not even when he questioned it on the cross.
What has happened during the centuries to that God of sustaining, enduring, total love? How can we survive without it?
From Glimpses of Grace by Madeleine L'Engle
In God's love, which does not fail but sustains even through failure, abandonment and death,
Thursday, April 05, 2007
In Dayspring all our fragments: body, mind
And spirit join, unite
Healed by your love, corruption and decay
Are turned, and whole, we greet the light of day.
From Glimpses of Grace by Madeleine L'Engle
On this day of forgiveness and feet,
sharing the meal of remembrance and being stripped of all illusions,
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
I am not caught in time nor held in space,
But, thrust beyond this posture, I am where
Time and eternity are face to face;
Infinity and space meet in this place
Where crossbar and upright hold the One
In agony and in all Love's embrace.
The power in helplessness which was begun
When all the brilliance of the flaming sun
Contained itself in the small confines of a child
Now comes to me in this strange action done
In mystery. Break time, break space, O wild
and lovely power. Break me: thus am I dead,
Am resurrected now in wine and bread.
From Glimpses of Grace by Madeleine L'Engle
In the mystery of Love's embrace,
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
From Glimpses of Grace by Madeleine L'Engle
As we go bravely into darkness and toward the life of love,
Monday, April 02, 2007
To die while body, mind and spirit still
Move in their triune dance of unity,
To die while living, dying I'll fulfill
The purpose of the finite in infinity.
If God will help me learn to die today,
Today in time I'll touch eternity,
And dying, thus will live within God's Way.
If I can free myself from self's iron bands,
Free from myself not by myself, but through
Christ's presence in this simple room, in hands
Outstretched in holy friendship, then, born new
In death, truth will outlive the deathly lie,
And in love's light I will be taught to die.
Words from Glimpses of Grace by Madeleine L'Engle
In holy friendship,
Monday, March 26, 2007
What I love about this image this year is the extravagance. There have been Lenten seasons where I have needed things to be spare, lean, full of discipline, even somber... but this has not been one of them. This year, I've been thinking about how my wedding falls in Lent - a reason for celebrating. I've been noticing flowers everywhere, creeping out unseasonably early. This season, I keep signing greetings, "in this season of Lenten spring." So, I love Mary's outpouring of extravagant love in the midst of this Lent - of course, the whole house was filled with the scent of her gift. And maybe we need to smell that healing scent as much as Jesus did.
Afterall, today I heard the witness of a reporter who was present as a whole group of children were gunned down in Baghdad. A colleague experienced two deaths in her community. I wrestled with a frightening dream during the night, one that made my heart race... in this kind of world, I long for Mary's ministering presence. I long for her gift of seeing just what is needed to fill the house with fragrance. I long for her touch of healing balm.
O God, we give thanks for Mary and all your faithful disciples whose witness guides us through this Lenten spring. Continue to call us into both the tasks of life and help us experience moments of outpouring love.
May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy. - Psalm 126:5
As we discern our work and God's joy today,
Sunday, March 18, 2007
If you haven't yet seen the online women's magazine of the ELCA, "Cafe: Stirring the Spirit Within," please check out this month.
In addition to a fabulous article by Karris Golden, pastor and Harley rider, you'll find biblical reflections on the sounds of faith.
I bind unto myself today the strong name of the Trinity, by invocation of the same, the three in one and one in three.
I bind this day to me forever by power of faith Christ's incarnation, his baptism in the Jordan river, his cross of death for my salvation, his bursting from the spiced tomb, his riding up the heavenly way, his coming at the day of doom, I bind unto myself today.
I bind unto myself today the virtues of the starlit heaven, the glorious sun's lifegiving ray, the whiteness of the moon at even, the flashing of the lightning free, the whirling wind's tempestuous shocks, the stable earth, the deep salt sea, around the old eternal rocks.
I bind unto myself today the power of God to hold and lead, God's eye to watch, God's might to stay, God's ear to hearken to my need, the wisdom of my God to teach, God's hand to guide, God's shield to ward, the Word of God to give me speech, God's heavenly host to be my guard.
I bind unto myself today the strong name of the Trinity by invocation of the same, the three in one and one in three, of whom all nature has creation, eternal Father, Spirit, Word. Praise to the Lord of my salvation; Salvation is of Christ the Lord!
In the power of God to hold and lead,
It's a joy to be able to do this work of discerning with prospective students the places to which they might be called next and to do this with a group of colleagues who care so much that people are called to the place where God is calling, the place where deep gladness and deep need will meet for the next year(s).
We hope that we can help prospective students find the home for this next step in the journey, where God is waiting, getting ready to run out and meet you, with open arms and a single word, Welcome.
In these days of Lenten spring,
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
What is left after a fire? Ash. Soot. Everywhere. Covering the neighboring homes, covering the snow--along with thick layers of ice from the fire hoses, the remains of the structure were covered with ash.
Today, we are marked with ash. It's a reminder of the earth from which we come and the earth to which we'll go. We are earth, mud, fertile ground.
This was not the first church that burned to the ground during our time in Wisconsin--and in both cases, the people/the church sensed the blazing fire not only as a great loss but as an opportunity. The ashes left behind became fertile ground for a new beginning.
We are marked today with the cross--an intersection. This is the place where God meets us and walks with us along the way.
We are marked today with the cross--the symbol of one reaching out in loving embrace.
We are marked today with the cross--marked in oil at baptism, marked at death, marked today in the in-between time with healing oil and ashes.
The oil and ash mark us and we are fertile ground for new beginnings.
Monday, February 19, 2007
I had the opportunity to talk about "Sharing Your Faith" at one of our Metro Chicago congregations yesterday and it seems to me, the most honest way to share faith is to tell your story. Maybe the best way to open a way for real sharing is to invite the other to share her/his story first and actually be curious about that person's life. It takes time and attention and courage to ask the deeper questions. But then, there is the possibility that the other might be interested to hear about you. And it's in our stories that we share who we really are, what moves us, what gives us hope.
We move from Epiphany to Lent this week. So, around LSTC, we will be feasting on pancakes on Tuesday, gathering to be marked with a cross of oil and ash on Wednesday. It's a week of remembering who we belong to--the earth, our God. Then, next Sunday, we will hear this passage from Deuteronomy (translatation byJoy): “A wanderer was my ancestor... there have been times of plenty but I have also been enslaved... now, I'm trying to remember that the Lord provides all I need. In fact, if we brought just the first portion of what we've received together, there would be a bounty for our celebration."
Even in tight times, we have bounty--if we can see it, if only we can realize that we can tell the story that way. If we can realize that God commands us, "Trust in me to provide all you need to live, to tell your story, to share faith."
It's the season for remembering our identity once again. Share your story.
As we move from Epiphany light to Lenten spring,
Thursday, February 01, 2007
"Hatred and bitterness can never cure fear, only love can do that." - Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In this month of love, this is the kind of love we really need... the love that transforms our hearts, our homes, our communities, our world. This is the kind of love that is necessary to follow God's calling for our lives because there are many things to fear in making transitions. There are many things to fear in daily remembering our baptism, in dying and rising each morning. There are many things to fear in offering forgiveness to those we have grown to hate or at least ignore. But, that's the kind of transformative love that God calls us to practice. And, that's the love God gives as a gift.
The fabulous people in these photos were at the Greater Milwaukee Synod's Invitation to Serve event. Generously sponsored by the Siebert Foundation, pastors and youth leaders are asked to bring a high school youth who they have identified as someone who would make a good leader in the church. We shared a meal, worship and heard many stories of God's call to step up in this place and in this time to serve God and God's people. Who knows? Maybe God has called you for just such a time as this!
Friday, January 26, 2007
Last week, I had the opportunity to be with people from Marquette's Lutheran Campus Ministry at an event called TASTE. We met at a coffee shop. Some ate brownies, some shared conversation, some did art, some formed a plan for another event, some meditated on scripture in a room filled with candles.
Words from God like these:
"Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost." Isaiah 55
"My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?" Psalm 42
"O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water." Psalm 63
"Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst... for the Lamb will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." Revelation 7
A blog by and for the young adults of the Greater Milwaukee Synod connected to these kind of post-modern worship events is http://thirst4.blogspot.com/index.html
What are you tasting in life right now?
For what do you thirst?
Monday, January 15, 2007
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
May we be filled with faith and led into action for the beloved community.
Tonight, I had the opportunity to eat a fabulous meal. It began with a glass of wine, then bread with a pesto and tomato sauce. Then, there was an antipasto appetizer plate. The main course was fish, spinach and beets (ok, maybe those aren't everyone's favorite, but I loved them!). Then, for dessert, coffee and rasperry sorbet. Yummy.
Sometimes, eating a very fine meal can be very healing.
Maybe that's part of why the story of Jesus at this wedding - Jesus providing the very fine wine - gives us such a good sense of who Jesus is. Mary gives us an incredible word when she says, "Do whatever he tells you." She seems to know intuitively that Jesus is the miracle. When we're around Jesus, we get more than we ask for and it's the really good stuff. We get what we really need. And here's another layer... it seems to be the other way around, too. Jesus seems to savor the wine, the celebration, us. Can you believe it?
Imagine this. God revealed in Jesus savors your presence, believes in you, wants to eat and drink with you. Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee... and the disciples believed him. That's a story worth passing on.
Here's an invite from Mary for disciples of every age and stage, "Do whatever Jesus tells you."
Who knows what might be asked--but it's certain that we'll receive more than we've asked for and that it'll be worth savoring.
Savoring with you,
Monday, January 08, 2007
I would like Epiphany to be that clear, that obvious, that indisputable.
But Epiphany seems to happen in my life in a more twisting and turning way:
when a story fills me with renewed faith, when a journey teaches me something, when a vision becomes reality
Epiphany happens along the journey, when we gather together.
It's more like the vision of Isaiah 60:
in the midst of thick darkness the LORD will arise,
lift up your eyes and look around—all gather together
your sons shall come from far away, your daughters too
then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice…
During the days of Christmas, I saw a film that projected a vision like this. In the story from South Africa, “Beat the Drum,” a small boy named Musa has lost nearly his whole family – his mother, then his father, nearly all Musa’s family have died by a mysterious disease. The story opens at the grave, in deep grief. The situation is so desperate that Musa sets out on a journey to Johannesburg, to find work and his missing uncle. He takes with him just one possession – a gift from his father, a drum.
Musa makes it to Johannesburg and lives in the streets, with many other desperate children and youth. He is confronted with many of the stark realities of urban life in deep poverty.
Musa and the people whose lives intersect with his face many perils. In the face of those perils, Musa says that his mother taught him to pray and he prays for a new day—that someday they might experience a safe place to sleep, enough to eat, a place to play. As Musa encounters many struggling people, his very presence causes people to gain courage, to speak the truth, to reach out to one another. His drumbeat gathers the community together.
When a new and safe place to live is at last offered to him, Musa looks up into the face of his benefactor and says, “Mister, did God send you?” The man has an epiphany, “No, Musa, it is the other way around.”
Epiphanies—these are the moments in life when we see—God revealed and present where we did not expect God to be—the indomitable spirit of a little Zulu boy who speaks truth and reveals God-with-us—the revelation that God has entered into our history as one of us.
What can we do in response to these moments, when we see God revealed in a little drummer boy? Well, even though it was “only a movie,” the truth of this story was so real to me that I was overwhelmed. In the midst of the direst circumstances, in the midst of AIDS that is in reality killing millions of people and has already left 12 million orphans in Africa, God’s light shines and reveals God’s presence, not only with the suffering ones but with those who beat the drum to bring people together, to bring truth, to bring healing, to bring a new day —I could see God present in Musa, my heart thrilled and I was overwhelmed not only with pain but with joy.
That’s what Epiphany is about--people gather, strangers together with families and right in the middle of us, Jesus is here. We share a meal in which Christ is present, in bread and wine, in the communion of people coming to the table together.
We come, empty, wanting to see Jesus revealed, wanting to be filled.
We come, bearing gifts.
We are looking for the place to bring what God has given us to share.
This is the time, this is the place.
Come and gather at this table to share in this meal where Jesus is the host.
Lay your gifts at the altar so that they may be shared with the community in need far beyond this place.
We may only experience it in part this Epiphany, but this is where we practice God’s vision.
In the midst of whatever troubles us/confounds us in life, the LORD will arise,
lift up your eyes and look around—we all gather together
your sons shall come from far away, your daughters toothen you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice…it will be a new day.
In the unfailing light of Jesus,
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
As I contemplate these questions again at the beginning of a new year, I've come across this reflection by John Stendahl. In it, he voices some of the problems of our notions of "vocation" - insider/outsider language, the challenge of many callings, the tendency to base our worth on our tasks and duties. In Jesus' baptism, Stendahl senses a different claim.
To read the full article, please follow this link:
Or get a taste of it right here:
"Not every cry can be answered
and not every call is from God.
So it is a blessing when we can thank God
for the joy of purpose in our lives
and for times when the call to a certain task seems clear.
Yet even when our callings seem hard to sort out
or beyond our ability to fulfill,
even in the day of failure and betrayal,
I pray to remember again the calling that comes first and last.
The tasks and duties do matter, but what abides --
our identity, our belonging, our hope --
is heard here by the waters."
"The Outset," John Stendahl, The Christian Century, 1997. At Religion Online.