In the Hours Before the Dawn

dark-before-dawnScripture Text:  Genesis 1:1-5a, 31a, 2:1-3

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.  Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night…God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good…Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. 

We’re never really sure what to do with this day.  Everything is so quiet, so unsettled.  Memories of the week before interrupt our quiet thoughts, filling our minds with regrets over things we would have done differently, places we would have said “yes”, places we would have said “no”, places that we would have stood, places that we would have stayed.  The Cross is empty and Jesus is gone, laid in the tomb–forever.  We know that we will have to go on but we’re not sure how to do that. This is a day when once again, we are covered in darkness.  The earth feels out of sorts, almost formless and empty once again.  And so we sit here in these hours before the dawn with no direction, no guide, no journey that we can see.

And, yet, God has done this before, this creating.  God takes a formless voice that is immersed in darkness and sweeps into it bringing Light.  God creates and we become.  God creates and the world begins to move.  God creates and everything is as it should be.  And then God rested.  This seventh day, this Sabbath, this day of rest, is not the low point of Creation but the veritable climax.  It is the edge of everything that will be, the veritable edge of Glory.  This is the day to sit without doing, to sit without trying to “fix” the world, without trying to “fix” ourselves, without even worrying what the future may hold, and let the peace of God sweep over us once again.  This is the day to sit in the silence and hear the voice that is beckoning us to a New Creation.  Whether we can see it or not, this is the day that we are standing on the edge of Glory.  It is not what we planned; it is not what we envisioned; it is new.  Creation is happening now–in the quiet, in the darkness.

So what do we do today in these hours before the dawn?  It’s hard for those of us that want to make the future right.  It’s hard for us in a place where it’s always been so easy, so protected, to live with both the memories of yesterday and the uncertain future of a world that seems to teeter even now on the brink of furthering its own demise.  This is a day filled with talk of bombs and crosses.  It is a world that only faith can redeem.  What do we do?  Nothing…just rest…and let God create you.  This is the moment of your re-creation.  God is walking in the darkness with you. It may not be what you imagined but it will be right.  The light is just over the darkened horizon.

The pilgrims sit on the steps of death.  Undanced, the music ends.  Only the children remember that tomorrow’s stars are not yet out.  (Ann Weems)

Grace and Peace,


REMEMBERING OUR JOURNEY: When Things Began to Change (Yet again!)

clouds-floating-over-a-mountainScripture Text:  Matthew 17: 1-9

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

And then our journey brought us to the mountain.  We should have known.  Mountains have always been places of change even as far back as Moses and the Commandments.  But we followed.  Maybe we knew that things would change and maybe we were just being naive.  So we followed Jesus up the mountain that day not knowing what was about to happen.  And there was Jesus, his clothes having taken on a dazzling hue, blinding, whiter than anything we had ever seen before.  And he was not alone.  There was Moses.  There was Elijah.  It was the most amazing thing, surely not of this world, surely something miraculous.  Peter was funny, wanting to build a dwelling for the three.  But at least he spoke.  The rest of us just sort of stood there dumbfounded.  What would we do next?  What was about to happen to us?  And the voice!  Who’s voice was that?  I think it was God.  I know that sounds far-fetched, but I think it was God.  It was God telling us to listen, to listen to Jesus, to listen to our hearts, to listen to the journey.  It was obvious that things had begun to change.  We fell down trying to shield ourselves.

And then in a moment, it was quiet.  We looked up.  The light was gone.  Elijah and Moses were gone.  And there was Jesus.  He looked the same and yet he was different.  Maybe we were different.  Maybe our eyes had been scarred by the bright lights.   Or maybe we had finally learned to look at things differently, to see the change we were being called to see, to traverse the journey ahead with new eyes.  We gathered our things together without speaking.  There were no words that belonged in the holy silence that embraced us.  We wanted to stay, stay there on that mountain with memories of the bright lights and that Presence.  But Jesus took our hands and beckoned us to follow.  We began to walk down the mountain.  There, there was Jerusalem in the distance.  Things were about to change.  We knew it.  But we descended from the mountain that day.  Jesus told us not to say anything.  We would understand it later.  But, for now, we had to return to the world.  The mountain was not ours.

Change is hard.  We try desperately to hold on to what we know, to what is safe and secure, to what feels comfortable.  But every once in awhile, we have a mountain we have to climb.  We ascend into the fog and something happens there.  Our world changes.  And for a little while, God stops talking, perhaps waiting for our silence so that we, too, can listen for what comes next.  On this day, we ascended the mountain as learners following a master.  And, looking back, the ones who walked down the other side together were different.  There was work to do and we were the ones that were called to do it.

Jerusalem-First SightLent teaches us that the world is not ours to plan or control. It is ours to embrace and journey through.  Sometimes we will have things that shake us to our core.  And so we descend the mountain in silence listening for God.  There is more to do.  There is more holy work.  And what God has in store for us is nothing short of a miracle.  And so for now, things are beginning to change.  Jerusalem awaits.

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year, Give me a light that I might go safely out into the darkness. And he replied, Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be more to you than a light, and safer than a known way. (M.L. Haskins)

On this day before Holy Week begins, we know that things will change.  Embrace them.  Live them.  Change with them.  And walk.  The journey is yours alone.

Grace and Peace,





REMEMBERING OUR JOURNEY: When We Saw That There Was More

GlobeScripture Passage:  John 4: 7-26

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

Do you remember that time when you realized that it was not all about you?  Do you remember that time when you realized that God was not just planted in your home sanctuary waiting for you to enter?  Do you remember the time when you realized that there was, oh, so much more?  There is some point in all of our faith journeys when we realize that the road we are following and the understandings of faith that we hold are not all there is to God.  It happens to all of us as we begin to see that God’s reach is far beyond where we are standing, even greater than the distance that we could possibly traverse or, for that matter, even imagine traversing.  As our journey winds toward Jerusalem, we remember that day when we realized that there was something more.

It’s probably a good thing that the disciples didn’t seem to be around for Jesus’ indiscretions.  They probably would have felt the need to pull him back into what was expected of him, what was expected of all of them.  After all, he was supposedly the Messiah.  This was surely going to be a big ugly black mark on Jesus’ Messiah resume’!  Here he was, not just breaking one big rule, but at least three!  First of all, he approaches, unescorted, and speaks to a woman.  Well see, this was just wrong.  After all, anything could happen!  (After all, there were writings in the Talmud that contended that speaking to a woman would ultimately lead to unchastity–or even worse!) Then, secondly, Jesus speaks to this woman that apparently, for whatever reason, did not have the best reputation. Now, in all probability, this woman was probably just a victim of some form of Levirite marriage process gone terribly bad, where she had been handed in marriage from relative to relative as her husbands died, leaving her penniless and out of options.  But we have to obey the rules, right?  Even if they make no sense!  And, as if all this wasn’t bad enough, here Jesus was speaking to a Samaritan, the so-called “enemy”, one who thought differently and believed differently and worshipped differently than the standard fare of proper society.   And Jesus, in pure Jesus fashion, did not just speak to her but actually engaged her in conversation, engaged her in spiritual and theological dialogue.  (I think Jesus may possibly have been a big talker!) Yeah, good thing the disciples weren’t there to see THAT!

But, really, who made those rules?  I mean, they weren’t bad rules.  They were made to keep the faithful, to insure the identity of people of faith.  On the surface, that doesn’t sound all bad.  After all, this faith journey is hard enough, right?  But, oh, think what you would miss.  The truth is, this story is about more than Jesus breaking rules.  The boundaries of the first century understanding of God and God’s children are crashing down at this moment.  We have grown accustomed to The Gospel being a story of encounters–encounters with God, encounters with each other, encounters with those that believe the way we believe, that can encourage us on our journey.  But in this story, all those pre-set notions of what encounter means begin to fail.  Jesus enters a new phase of the journey.

Up until this point, Jesus’ encounters have been pretty ethno-centric. But, here, the Gospel begins to spread to other ethnicities and other peoples. It begins to include an encounter with the world.  In this story, we finally realize that there is more than what we know, more than that to which we have become accustomed, more than what we can really imagine.  This was the point when we encountered a Savior that was not just ours, a Messiah that did not come just to release us from our tightly-held little world, a God who is created all there is and called it good.  Think back to this moment when you realized that Jesus was indeed the Savior of the World.

This is something that we so easily forget.  Our social language turns to self-preservation, to making ourselves great, and we forget that the needs of the world our ours.  We forget that if we have a voice, we are called to speak out for others.  We forget that if we have a heart, we are called to care what happens even to those that we do not know.  Because just because we do not know them does not mean that they are not our family, that they are not part of us.  The pictures are hard.  We’d rather turn and go back to our comfortable lives and hope and pray that terrorism and tyranny and thoughtlessness never touches our borders.  But the problem is that these pictures are ours.

I posted this before the United States sent 59 Tomahawk missiles to Syria in retaliation, or to prove a point, or just to exercise muscle.  Now, honestly, I would like to say that I’m a pacifist.  I think it’s the right thing.  I think it’s the Gospel thing.  I think it’s what Jesus would have done.  I think it’s the God thing.  But I’ve also walked through Auschwitz.  Surely, we need to do SOMETHING.  So, I guess we did.  I pray that no one was hurt.  I pray that it doesn’t go farther.  But I also pray that we will PAY ATTENTION to others’ needs.

Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib Province, Syria (Ammar Abdullah/Reuters)

Our Lenten journey is not just about preparing our neatly-constructed lives to be interrupted by the Cross.  This Lenten journey calls us to a broadening, a widening, of our minds and our lives.  On this journey, Jesus is gathering us to the Cross–all of us.  So think back to the point when you realized it was about something more, that Jesus was not just your personal Savior, but the One who came to set us free–free from our tightly-bound existence, free to become fully human in unity with all the world, all of God’s children, all of Creation.  The Cross means that we are called to realize not only that there is more than what we see, but that WE are indeed responsible for it–Tomahawks and all.

To belong to a community is to begin to be about more than myself. (Joan Chittister)

As our Lenten journey narrows toward the gates of Jerusalem, let it also be a journey that widens our minds and opens our hearts to all that God is and all that God desires for you.  Let our journey widen to include the world.

Grace and Peace,


A Gift in the Wilderness



Mt. SinaiScripture Text:  Exodus 20: 1-17

Then God spoke all these words: 2I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3you shall have no other gods before me. 4You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. 8Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.  12Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. 13You shall not murder. 14You shall not commit adultery. 15You shall not steal. 16You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 17You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

This is hard.  The people are journeying through the wilderness.  Food is in short supply and nerves are raw.  They have quarreled and tested God but until now, they have had no real identity, no real purpose.  This is the place where they are finally aware of the intention that God has for them as a people. This is the place where their lives and their journey becomes meaningful. And God gives them this covenant.  The specific laws would have been selected from among the many social and moral laws over many generations.  It is probable that they did not magically drop out of the sky but rather grew out of a people’s understanding of who God was.

So many in our society try to make these laws more judicial, as if they are a hard and fast set of rules that God laid down, perhaps metaphorically slapping the people on their hands for misbehaving, like small unruly children.  There are those who think we need to post these up on the board (or in front of court buildings and the like) so that people will remember them (and, sadly, interpret them the way the person that pinned them up does!).  But these are not laws to obey in the “following the rules” sense.  They are the shape of who we are, the shape of God’s people.  They depict who we are as people of God.  It is about how we relate to God, how we relate to each other, and how we sustain ourselves on our faith journey.  The wilderness provided a gift of how to wander in the wilderness, of how to be.  Think of them not as boundaries but as declarations of freedom, freedom not just from the slavery endured before but from every time that we allow ourselves to be enslaved by anything.  I don’t think we’re called to remember the words of the ten commandments as much we are to remember who and whose we are.

This Season of Lent is not really about following rules either.  It is not meant to burden us or make us quit enjoying life or any of that.  It, too, is about freedom, about finally experiencing the freedom that God gives us from slavery, from our plans, from the expectations of the world.  God is not expecting us to follow rules; God is asking us to dance, to delight in Creation, to delight in the world that was created for us.  And the way we do that?  We love God. We love ourselves. We love our neighbor as ourselves.  And we learn the meaning of rest and reflection and glorious Sabbath.  That’s all.  But that’s the way we will know God.  Consider these commandments not as rules but as a glorious gift of God from the wilderness.  But, notice, we had to get away, we had to wander a bit, all the while shedding ourselves of the trappings that we have created in our life, of those things that enslave us, to really understand what we have been given.  We have not been given rules; we have been given Life.

If indeed we love the Lord with all our hearts, minds, and strength, we are going to have to stretch our hearts, open our minds, and strengthen our souls, whether our years are three score and ten or not yet twenty.  God cannot lodge in a narrow mind.  God cannot lodge in a small heart.  To accommodate God, they must be palatial. (William Sloane Coffin)

FOR TODAY:  Love God. Love yourself. Love your neighbor.  And then rest, and reflect, and be still.  That’s all.

Grace and Peace,




With My Mind Stayin’ on Jesus


Kneeling at the CrossScripture Text: Mark 8: 31-38

31Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”  34He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

So many of us are like Peter. We want to “fix” things, to make sure that everything and everyone is safe and alright. We want things to be OK. We want to get this wilderness place cleaned up and ready for show. But that was never part of the promise. I think Peter actually DID understand that Jesus was the Messiah. He just didn’t fully grasp what that meant. For him, the Messiah was here to fix things, to make it all turn out like it was supposed to turn out. And now Jesus was telling them that the way they had thought it would all turn out was not to be, that instead this Messiah, this one who was supposed to make everything right, was to be rejected and would endure great suffering.  “No, this can’t be!” yelled Peter.  This cannot happen.  We have things to accomplish.  We are not done.  This ministry is important. It cannot go away.  You have to fix this. You have to fix this now! We are not ready to do it alone. We are not ready to be without you. 

Now, contrary to the way our version of the Scriptures interprets it, I don’t think Jesus was accusing Peter of being evil or Satan or anything like that.  More than likely, this was Jesus’ way of reprimanding Peter for getting hung up on the values of this world, getting hung up on our very human desire to save ourselves and the way we envision our lives to be, to fix things.  But what God had in store was something more than playing it safe.  I think that Peter, like us, intellectually knew that.  We know that God is bigger and more incredible than anything that we can imagine.  And yet, that’s hard to take.  We still sort of want God to fix things, to make things comfortable, or at least palatable.  We still sort of want God to lead us to victory, to lead us to being the winning team.  Face it, we sort of still want Super Jesus in the story.  And, of course, Peter loved Jesus.  He didn’t even want to think about the possibility of Jesus, his friend, his mentor, his confidante, suffering, of Jesus dying.

You know, there is a danger in our thinking that God is here to make life easier for us, to keep us safe and warm and free from harm. After all, there’s that whole Cross thing that gets in the way. If we think that God came into this world, Emmanuel, God-with-us to make life better or easier or grander for us, then what do we do with a crucified Savior? What do we do with the cross?  Well, let’s be honest, most of us clean it up, put it in the front of the sanctuary, and, sadly, go on with the security of our lives.  So, what does it mean to “take up your cross and follow”? What does it MEAN to follow God not just to the altar where that gleaming, cleaned-up cross sits, but to follow Christ to the hills of Golgotha, to walk with Jesus all the way to the Cross?  I think it means that sometimes faith is hard; sometimes faith is risky; in fact, sometimes faith is downright dangerous. And, to be honest, faith rarely makes sense in the context of the world in which we live. After all “denying ourselves”, “losing our life to save it”, and “letting go to gain” make absolutely no sense to us. They don’t make sense because we are setting our minds on the human rather than the Divine.

There’s a old Gospel song with these lyrics:  (Hear it at

Well, woke up this mo’nin with my mind, stayin’ on Jesus

Woke up this mo’nin with my mind, stayin’ on Jesus

Well, woke up this mo’nin with my mind, stayin’ on Jesus

Halleluh, halleleluh, halleleluh


In all probability, none of us will be physically crucified for our faith.  But it doesn’t mean that we should clean it up and put it out for display either.  Sometimes our journey will take us through waters that are a little too deep and torrential; sometimes we will find ourselves bogged down by mud; and sometimes faith takes us to the edge of a cliff where we are forced to precariously balance ourselves until we find the way down.  The promise was not that it would be safe; the promise was that there was something more than we could ever imagine and that we would never journey through the wilderness alone. The promise was that a Savior would come, not to save us from the world or to save us from evil, but to save us from ourselves.

On this Lenten journey, this journey that takes us through the wilderness all the way to that place beyond the wilderness, to the Cross, we are called to follow Christ. We are called to begin to wake up in the morning with our minds “stayin’ on Jesus”. It will not lead you to safety; it will lead you to Life.

He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside…He speaks to us the same word:  ‘Follow thou me!” and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfill for our time…And to those who obey, whether they be wise or simple, [God] will reveal {Godself] in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in this fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who [God] is.  (Albert Schweitzer)

FOR TODAY:  Put your plans aside.  Let go of the images of God that you have conjured up.  Let go of the notion of a Savior who will fix things.  Close your eyes.  Then wake up…wake up with minds stayin’ on Jesus…all the way through the wilderness of Golgotha to Life.

Grace and Peace,


Lessons From the Desert Fathers



The Judean Wilderness, February, 2010
The Judean Wilderness, February, 2010

Scripture Text:  Mark 1: 10-13

10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” 12And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Jesus was baptized by John and then the version of the Gospel by the writer we know as Mark has immediately being driven into the wilderness.  Still wet with the waters of life, Jesus began his 40-day quest filled with danger, temptation, and probably questions about his own identity and the ministry that would come.  We struggle with this.  We often get hung up on the whole temptation thing, trying to come up with reasons why Jesus, of all people, would have been tempted.  But the writer of this version of the account doesn’t offer more than a mere mention of that.  Instead, we have Jesus being driven out into the wilderness and then the story picks up a few sentences later.  You see, no one followed Jesus out in the desert to get the first hand account.  He was on his own, alone in the wilderness.

We’re not big fans of wildernesses.  In fact, we try to do everything we can to avoid them, or at least find one that has cellular reception and free WIFI available.  And yet, Jesus was driven into the wilderness, as if he had no choice.  Jesus was forced to spend 40 days in what is essentially a wasteland.  The wilderness was waiting for him, offering something that the crowds and the towns and even the synagogue could not.  The wilderness, the place that no one owns, the place that no one has tamed, the place that no one really wants to beat, the place that will never become something that it is not offers just that–itself.  Jesus is not the first to wander in the wilderness and he was not the last.  A few centuries after this, orders of monks in Northern Africa began to make their way into the desert, into the wilderness to experience God’s Presence unhindered by what humans have attempted to create, unhindered by expectations and schedules.  It was the place where they went to renew their prayer life, to begin again.  There were those, like Jesus, that returned to their lives but with new eyes and new hearts.  There were also though that chose to stay , even though they would remain visitors in a place that was not theirs.  In the wilderness, nothing exists but you and God, and, uninterrupted and unhindered, God can create you yet again.

Our wildernesses come in all forms.  Some are self-imposed and others are those to which we are driven at a time that we have no control over where we are going.  The wilderness is hard and dangerous and uncomfortable.  Some are filled with grief and despair.  Others are wrought with a feeling that we will never get out.  Sometimes the wilderness seems unforgiving, as if it’s only focus is to push us into vulnerability, to push us into temptation.  But the lesson that we learn from the wilderness is that, when everything else is gone, when the clouds make us unable to see the way out, when we feel that it will never end, God is there.  And we have become someone new.

Most of us will not drop out of society and make our way to the wilderness.  Even Jesus returned to Galilee, proclaiming the Gospel.  But in this season that remembers Jesus’ time in the wilderness, we can learn what it means to awaken to God’s Presence, to be mindful of this Presence that is always and forever with us, to, day by day, strip those things away that have our attention.  We can learn what it means to enter an intentional wilderness, a place and a time where God is all we have. These forty days are our emptying time—the time when we strip all of our preconceptions away and meet God where God is—right there with us.  We do not walk this road alone.  God is always there.  And when we are tempted to once again take control, God will still be there.  Lent is the time when we allow God to work on us that we might burst forth on Easter morning in radiant bloom.

We need the tonic of wildness, to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the whispering sedge where only the wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground.  We can never have enough of nature.  We must be refreshed by the sight of inexhaustible vigor, vast and titanic features, the sea-coast with its wrecks, the wilderness with its living and its decaying trees, the thunder cloud, and the rain which lasts weeks and produces freshets. We need to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life pasturing freely where we never wander. (Henry David Thoreau)

FOR TODAY:  Think of what it would mean to enter an intentional wilderness this Lent, to, day by day strip all those things away that have your attention until all that is left is God, who is recreating you even now.

Grace and Peace,



Be Light

Being LightScripture Text:  John 1:6-9

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.


John again?  John the Baptist, this brash camel’s hair-wearing, locust-eating, wilderness wandered, is back.  But here we are told that John is but a witness to something bigger, there to point to the Light of Christ that is coming.  But what makes John’s message uncomfortable is that he is always pointing to that which the light illumines.  For the writer of the Gospel According to John, the Logos was the true light bursting forth into humanity.  Rather than an angel announcing the birth of a baby, the writer is using John as a witness to point to that light as well as the purpose of that light.  We love the image of light but sometimes we are uncomfortable with full illumination.  I mean, here’s John, running around like a wild man in the wilderness preaching repentance, calling for us to change, and just being really loud.  Our reaction in this season is to respond with:  “John…shhhh!  You’ll wake the baby.”


We don’t really want to hear this during this season.  We’d rather hear the tales of a baby being born, of shepherd’s visits, of angel’s callings.  This is just too hard.  This is just too uncomfortable.  The season is just too dark for such a bright light.  So John sort of gets in the way.  And there we can’t help but look at the light.  But, good grief, it’s so bright!  How in the world can we be prepared for THIS?  Well, don’t you remember how you prepare yourself to look at light?  You prepare yourself to look at light by looking at light.  So this Light of Christ, this radiant, fully-illuminating light, has now begun to peek into our lives in the form of a witness by this wild wilderness man.  But the way that John witnessed (if you read on) was by pointing the light away from himself and toward the Light itself.  John became a reflection of the Light.  (Yeah…talking in circles again!  It’s this light thing!)


Maybe that’s it.  We are called to bask in the light and then deflect the light toward the light.  We are called to illumine the Light of Christ for the world.  We are called to be light by reflecting the Light.  And the world will never be the same.  You see, the reason that light is so incredibly uncomfortable is that, contrary to what we’d like to conjure up in our heads, this light is not warm and cozy.  It is not a light that merely adds a little needed ambiance to an already-shadowed room.  This light is BRIGHT, UNCOMFORTABLY BRIGHT.  This is the kind of light that shines into the darkest corners and then bends itself around the turn.  This is the kind of light that shines into the shadows that were trying desperately to remain hidden.  This is the kind of light that shows the hidden shadows for what they are.  Darkness cannot exist with this light.  This light casts no shadows.  This Light changes the way we see, changes the way we live.  This Light exposes the world to itself.


It is that for which we’ve been waiting.  We’ve been waiting for something to not just light our way but to illumine the darkness.  The darkness will be no more.  The Light will come.  And we, like John, are called to be witnesses to that light, to shine a light toward it.  We are called to be light, the light that shines toward the Light.  And the world will be forever different.  No longer are the shadows able to exist unnoticed.  You see, this light exposes everything for what it is.  This Light makes us realize that poverty and homelessness, violence and war, greed and injustice are not just things that exist.  This Light shines such a light that they become unacceptable, unimaginable, undone.  This is the Light that calls us to see not just a dream of the way we could be, but the notion that we are called to be nothing less.  Here’s the deal.  The baby is already awake, already basking in the Light of the Eternal.  So, we need to wake up, rub the sleep out of our eyes, and be a reflection of that light.  Be Light.


Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.  (Rabindranath Tagore)


FOR TODAY:  Look for the light.  Then reflect it toward the world.  Be light.  Be the Light.


Grace and Peace,