Monday, January 24, 2011

Do You See What I See?

This week's readings in John chapter 2 bring us into two uncomfortable conversations.  One begins with Jesus talking back to his mother (John 2: 1-17).

But this domestic scene is just an appetizer.  The real action begins when Jesus’ get to his God-Father’s house, the temple. (John 2: 18-22)

These two stories cast Jesus in a different light than we are used to seeing him.
We want Jesus to be the good and readily obedient son. 
We want Jesus to be the one who never gets angry. 
We want the powers that be to “get it.”

During the recent holidays, Andy William’s version of the Christmas classic lodged in my inner ear:

From the night wind to the little lamb, do you see what I see?
From the little lamb to the shepherd boy, do you hear what I hear?
From the shepherd boy to the mighty king, Do you know what I know?

Said the king to the people everywhere
Listen to what I say
Pray for peace people everywhere
Listen to what I say

A child, a child, sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light
Do you hear what I hear?

I’m propbably not the only one who finds “Little Drummer Boy” more pleasant to sing than the song another king, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, wove into his “I have a Dream Speech.”

            Mine Eyes have see the glory of the coming of the Lord,
            He has trampled out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored…

King declaimed peace that day on the Lincoln Memorial Steps,                  
My people, my people, listen! The battle is in our hands.... So as we go away this afternoon, let us go away more than ever before committed to the struggle and committed to nonviolence. I must admit to you there are still some difficulties ahead. We are still in for a season of suffering.... I must admit to you there are still jail cells waiting for us, dark and difficult moments. We will go on with the faith that nonviolence and its power transformed dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. We will be able to change all of these conditions. Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man but to win his friendship and understanding. We must come to see that the end we seek is a society  at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience.... I know you are asking today, "How long will it take?" I come to say to you this afternoon however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, because truth pressed to earth will rise again.                                                                          How long? Not long, because no lie can live forever.
 How long? Not long, because you still reap what you sow.
 How long? Not long. because the arm of the moral universe is long and it bends toward justice. How long? Not long,'cause mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,                      trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.                                           
He has loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword.                                          
His truth is marching on.                                                                                                 
He has sounded forth the trumpets that shall never call retreat.                                       
He is lifting up the hearts of man before His judgment seat.                                            
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him. Be jubilant, my feet.                                     
Our God is marching on.[i]

Hearing the Battle Hymn of the Republic in the context of this speech that changed the world, that changed my world, that changed your world, brings out a whole new meaning in the words. The wrath is not anger for anger’s sake or for entertainment’s sake, or to make a buck or to fill in some emotional vacuum.  
It's only when I hear these words in the voice of those who fight for justice, that I can hear these fighting words as holy words. It's only as we hear Jesus words in the voice of those who fight for justice, that we can hear fighting words as holy words.
When Jesus’ anger pours out in the temple the glory of God is being revealed as the glory of justice.
When John's Gospel was being put on written record, it was seventy some years after Jesus’ crucifixion and death, after the splendid failure of his project in their grandparents’ time,  It's some seventy years after Jesus’ resurrection that reframed the project entirely, Judaism was being forced to recreate itself.  The Romans had driven them out of the temple and taken the place down behind them.
If God was in the temple,
where is God now?
Where do we worship now?
How do we worship now?
Jewish Communities reshaped their sacred centers. Some regrouped in the synagogues planted in the last crisis, the Diaspora.  They met in homes and places of business and simple meeting halls.
Some regrouped around the one who revealed the Glory of God to them.
John’s community, the one forming this gospel wrestles with a fundamental question.
Is Jesus Human, or  is Jesus God?
If Jesus is human, life is so much easier.  They don’t have to endure abuse and charges of blasphemy from their neighbors and family or torture from representatives of the Roman Empire.  They can just say, he’s a great teacher and let it go at that.  Sigh of relief.But then, what did it mean when Jesus said, “the temple will be rebuilt.” Why is that they saw their God, saw their lives so differently when Jesus showed up?

So, is Jesus human or is Jesus God.
The answer was then and is now, “Yes.”
Jesus is the glory of God.
Jesus is a human being having a fully human experience.

So how do we live with that yes?
How do we live with a man who got up and walked out of his own tomb, who keeps asking us to see the glory of god revealed in what he says and does?  How do we do that well?

What is success?  That’s a sacred question.

Is success taking on responsibility for the life of the party (and overstepping your role as guest to help your host when he runs out of libations)?

Is success doing what your mother tells you?

Is success the number of projects we manage to finish, the sheer momentum of tasks accomplished?

Is success numerical?  Is more merrier, bigger better?

For Jesus, it seems, success is when the people around him sees what he sees:  his Creator, infusing all of creation with compassion and beauty, and a hunger for justice, a thirst for mercy.

The Prophet Isaiah says (9:1-4)
 But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. ….The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder.  For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, …

Do you hear what I hear?
Do you see what I see?
Asks Jesus.

[i] Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches That Changed the World (Speech given at the end of the march from Selma's Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 25 1965)

Do you hear what I hear?
(Hear what I hear, hear what I hear?)
Said the night wind to the little lamb
Do you see what I see? (do you see what I see?)
Way up in the sky, little lamb
Do you see what I see? (do you see what I see?)
A star, a star, dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite
With a tail as big as a kite
Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy
Do you hear what I hear? (Do you hear what I hear?)
Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy
Do you hear what I hear? (Do you hear what I hear?)
A song, a song high above the tree
With a voice as big as the the sea
With a voice as big as the the sea
Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king
Do you know what I know? (what I know, what I know?)
In your palace warm, mighty king
Do you know what I know? (what I know, what I know?)
A Child, a Child shivers in the cold
Let us bring him silver and gold
Let us bring him silver and gold
Said the king to the people everywhere
Listen to what I say! (what I say, what I say)
Pray for peace, people, everywhere
Listen to what I say! (what I say, what I say)
The Child, the Child sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light .

collecting comments on John

Your Pastor here, scratching her pea brain to re-collect the great comments made in worship on January 16.
They came in three categories.  Help out by filling in what I"ve missed or adding more. (Use the comment box below!)

First impressions of John:

Memorable characters in John:

Questions provoked by the Gospel According to John:

Monday, January 10, 2011

Reading with John

This year's all church read is the Gospel according to John, the fourth of the New Testament Gospels.
Since this book is structured with conversations, January and February worship services will explore the conversations we find most compelling.

So, on January 2 I asked everyone to go home, read the book, and let me know which conversations they find particularly interesting, puzzling, or otherwise worth spending time with, promising to collect input on January 9.  Imagine my surprise when tons of folks (well, ok, LOTS) came prepared. Wonderful conversations ensued about passages, versions of the bible-some easier to read than others.

Since conversation is the theme, I'm hoping that this blog will be a platform for sharing those enthusiams and questions with each other.

Use the comment space below to post the passages you'd most like to explore in the Gospel according to John.  This is real need to I can plan worship.  We'll also stir up some viritual conversations and actual ones in small group and stone soup lunch settings.

So far we have one request for John 6 (the bread passages) and two for John 17.  What will you add to the list? (A word of why would also be helpful!)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Twelfth Day of Christmas Present

Have the twelve days of Christmas helped you be more present to God, more aware of God's presence?
The story's told of a woman whose friend, wanting to honor what she's learned from her, said, "when you are gone, people will remember the way God was present in your life."  The woman smiled and said, "I hope that people will celebrate whatever way I've able to be present in God's life!"

Here's a 12th day gift, with an invitaiton to be present to God in the reading of it.
Tomorrow we'll turn to thoughts about conversation in the Gospel According to John.

I gave this day to God
     Mary Oliver, from "Accompanied by Angels:  Poems of the Incarnation

I gave this day to God when I got up, and look,
look what it birthed!  There, up the hill, stood

the apple tree, bronze leaves, its fallen apples
spilling richly down the slope, the way God spilled

his seed into Mary, into us.  In her the holy promise 
came to rest in generous soil after a long 

fall.  How often it ends in gravel, or dry dust.
Blackberry patches thorny with distraction. Oh

I pray my soul will welcome always that small
seed.  That I will hail it when it enters me.

I don't mind being grit, soil, dirt, mud-brown,
laced with the rot of old leaves, if only the seed

can find me, find a home, and bear a fruit
sweet, flushed, full-fleshed--a glory apple.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Eleventh Day of Christmas Present

10+1 + 11 today.

Take a look at Andy Crouch's ten trends of the decade and see if you agree these are the most important factors shaping the context of faith communities. Andy was the keynote speaker at the Glen Workshop I attended in 2009 and an articulate and insightful commentator on the interaction between faith and culture.  I've summed his points up as a more and less list:

more connectivity with real people….less virtual reality.
more becoming rooted where we are….less trying to get somewhere else.
more urban renewal.…less suburban sprawl
more ethnic diversification…less majority concentration.
more polarization….less common political meeting ground
more self shots…..less unselfconsciousness.
more porn and idealized body images…..less certainty about how to reduce it.
more informality….less 
traditional institutional expectations.
more liquidity….less real assets

 more complexity….less easy answers

I'd add this:
more local and global nonprofit activity....less waiting for governments to fix things.

What do you think??? Post your comment and spark conversation!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Day Ten Christmas Present

Just imagine those ten lords a leaping non-stop for 231 years.
That's when the "Twelve Days of Christmas" was published as a poem in an English children's book, Mirth Without Mischief.  Either before, or shortly after it was published, it became a memory game. The first player recited verse one and each following player repeated what was said before, then added the next verse.  If anyone made a mistake, they had to give someone else a gift of food or a kiss.

We are celebrating Christmas present.  Its full of memories of the past and hopes for the future.  But our celebration is now, in the present tense. 
We are moving, now as then, toward Epiphany, a celebration of the star's illumination, revealing God to those who came searching.

The gifts of the past hold moments when we rested with God.  At the manger, on retreat, in family celebrations and quiet times.
They guide us toward a present that lives as long as we continue searching for the living God.  Have you ever told someone to wait right there, thinking you'd know where to find them when you came back?   Ten Lords a Leaping in place for 231 years.....a peaceful baby still lying in the manger over 2,000 years later, same people, same place, I don't think so.  We seek and serve a living God, one who moves and calls, nudges and reveals. Not then, not later, but now.

.....if you embrace what is to come from God, 
if you live for Christ's coming in practical life, 
you will learn that divine things can be experienced here and now, 
things quite different from what our human brains can ever imagine.  
-Christoph Friedrich BlumhardtAction in Waiting

In Joy, Pastor Karen

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Catching up: Presents 7, 8 and 9!!

7th Day of Christmas Present:
In the 1990's, a legend surfaced about the meaning of the 12 days of Christmas.
Although its been discredited as the origin of the song itself, the legend is a great example of how pop culture celebrations (like Christmas trees) can be re-imagined to teach and enliven the faith.

1. The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus.
2. The two turtledoves are the Old and New Testaments.
3. Three French hens stand for faith, hope and love.
4. The four calling birds are the four Gospels.
5. The five gold rings recall the Hebrew Torah (Law), or the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament.
6. The six geese a-laying stand for the six days of creation.
7. The seven swans a-swimming represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
8. The eight maids a-milking are the eight Beatitudes.
9. Nine ladies dancing are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit.
10. The ten lords a-leaping are the Ten Commandments.
11. Eleven pipers piping represent the eleven faithful Apostles.
12. Twelve drummers drumming symbolize the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles Creed.

8th Day of Christmas Present:
     Today was "put-away" day at the Parsonage.  (I used to call it boxing day, until I learned that boxing day has nothing to do with packing up Christmas.  Click here to visit a good description of Boxing Day's origins.
     We had a lot of help with our version of boxing;  Sara still home from college, our German friend, Alice and helper #3, J.C. (Jeanne Claude) scurrying up and down and all around.Here's an 8th day bit of fun from the parsonage cat:

9th Day of Christmas Present: A Service for the Blessing of  A Home                                     
Adapted from the United Methodist Book of Worship

Jesus said, “Behold, I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in” (Revelation 3:20).
GREETING Friends, we gather here to seek God’s blessing upon this dwelling place, which by the favor of God and human labor has been made ready This home is not only a dwelling but a symbol to us of God’s loving care, and a symbol of our life together as God’s family. So let us bring our praise and thanksgiving for God’s goodness and mercy, and let us offer ourselves as God’s servants and as loving brothers and sisters in God’s family
OPENING PRAYER Almighty and everlasting God, grant the grace of your presence to this home, inhabit and defend this household. Teach them to love, as you have loved us, and help us all to live in the peace of Jesus Christ our Lord. Let your love rest upon this place so that all who enter may know how your love through the hospitality that it offers. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever.  AMEN
SCRIPTURE:  Joshua 24:  14-15
+ Lighting a candle   
“May the light of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, shine within your hearts”
+ Opening a Bible    
“May the Word of the Lord grow within your hearts and minds, guiding your journey.”
+ Lifting up of the Cross   
“May the sacrificial love of Christ’s death and resurrection point you toward the promise of eternal life.”
BLESSING  all present may extend their hands in blessing.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, we bless the family and friends of this dwelling place, committing to God’s love and care all who dwell within these walls.
May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord make his face to shine upon you; may the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace, now and forever more. AMEN