Waiting on the World to Change


Door near Bethany, Jerusalem
Door near Bethany, Jerusalem

Scripture Text:  Hebrews 13:2

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.

Imagine that you are at home one evening. You’ve just finished dinner and the dishwasher is humming with the satisfaction of a job well-done. All the leftovers are put away in the refrigerator. You have settled in for the evening—full stomach, warm house, a time of togetherness, the house locked up and the alarm is set. You look at the clock: 9:00—just in time to settle down to watch that recording of “The Good Wife” that you haven’t had time to watch. Just then, there is a knock on the door. Who in the world? You peer out through the peephole and see a man standing there—dirty, disheveled, unshaven, a far-away look in his eyes.  Hmmm!  Not sure what to do…maybe he will just go away.


After all, the world is a scary place.  You don’t know who this is.  And he was so dirty…really, really dirty…The man is dirty because he has traveled a great many miles on the open, dusty road. He is disheveled because he is tired. He has gone from house to house asking for help. Most people do not answer the door. He knows they’re at home. He can see the eyes through the peephole and hear them inside. But who can blame them? It’s been days since he’s had a chance to shave. He’s almost at the end of his rope. He’s worried and afraid and he’s sure it shows in his eyes. So he turns and heads back down the block toward the car that only made it this far. He has no idea what to do. He has no money left after the long trip—no money for gas, no money to fix the car, no money for food for him and his wife. And the time is almost here. The baby is coming. But there’s doesn’t seem to be room anywhere he goes.   Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus…


So, what ARE you expecting?  For what are you waiting?  For what are you preparing?  God comes in ways that we never expect.  God comes into those places where the needs are the greatest, where the hurt is the deepest, where the wilderness seems to close around us.  And there…there God comes.  While we are waiting on the world to change, God comes.  While we are wondering why someone doesn’t fix things, God comes.  While we are watching riots and marches, poverty and wars, and politicians arguing over who is in control and bemoaning the fact that the world seems to be coming apart, God comes.  On the darkest of nights, when the world is so loud we almost can’t stand it, God tiptoes in through the one door of our lives that we forgot to lock, forgot to decorate, perhaps forgot was even there, and is born in a stable and laid in a manger because there was no room.  While we are waiting for the world to change, God knocks on the door to our lives and shows us that it the change has already begun.  Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus…


The Advent mystery is the beginning of the end in all of us that is not yet Christ. (Thomas Merton)


FOR TODAY:  Through what door is God coming into your life?  What have you done to make room for God in your life?  Be the change that you are waiting to see.


Grace and Peace,




clouds-floating-over-a-mountainScripture Passage:  Mark 9: 2-9

2Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.  9As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

How did we get here so fast?  Everything seemed to just fly by.  Wasn’t it just a few days ago that we were reading of the birth of a child?  Wasn’t it just awhile ago that Jesus was beginning his ministry and calling the disciples to journey with him? In the big scheme of things, we’ve gotten to this point pretty fast.  Here it is—a child born into anonymous poverty and raised by no-name peasants turns out to be the Son of God.  He grows up, becomes a teacher, a healer, and capable of hosting large groups of people with just a small amount of leftovers.  Then he asks a handful of people to become his followers, to help him in his mission.  They leave everything they have, give up their possessions and their way of making a living, they sacrifice any shred of life security that they might have had, and begin to follow this person around, probably often wondering what in the world they were doing.  And we’ve essentially read through all of this in a matter of a few months since early December.  And then one day, Jesus leads them up to a mountain, away from the interruptions of the world.

Now, this is sort of interesting.  There is no proof of an actual geographically-charted mountain.  It is presented as if it just rose up, uninterrupted, from the terrain, as if it is rather a part of the topography of God.  Even for people, such as myself, who cannot claim a single, stand alone, so-called “mountain-top experience” that brought them to Christ but rather came year by year and grew into the relationship…even for us…this IS the mountain-top experience.  And there, on that mountain, everything changes.  The clothes that Jesus was wearing change, taking on a hue of dazzling, blinding, white, whiter than anything that they had ever seen before.  And on the mountain appeared Elijah and Moses, representing the Law and the prophets, the forerunners of our faith, standing there with Jesus.  Peter wanted to build three dwellings to house them.  For me, that’s sort of an interesting part of the story.  Dwellings…I guess because that would keep them here, essentially bound to our way of living.  Dwellings…to control where they were.  Dwellings…to somehow put this incredible thing that had happened into something that made sense, to bring it into the light of the world where we could understand it.  But, instead, they are veiled by a cloud and from the cloud comes a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him!”  “Listen to him!”  And then they were gone and Jesus stood there alone.

The account of the Transfiguration of Jesus seems to us that it should be the climax of the Jesus story.  After all, how can you top it—Old Testament heroes appearing, God speaking from the cloud, and Jesus all lit up so brightly that it is hard for us to look at him.  But there’s a reason that we read this at this point.  In some ways, it is perhaps the climax of Jesus’ earthly journey.  Jesus tells the disciples to keep what happened to themselves, if only for now.  This is the ultimate in thin places, those places of liminality, “betwixt and between” what is and what will be, those places that if we dare to enter, we experience that glimpse of the sacred and the holy.  The light is so bright it is blinding.  God’s glory is so pervasive that we cannot help but encounter it.  And these Old Testament characters?  They show us that this is not a one-time “mountain-top” experience.  It is part of life; it is part of history; it is part of humanity.  Rather than everything of this world being left behind in this moment, it is all swept into being.  It all becomes part of the glory of God.

And then the lights dim.  There are no chariots, Moses and Elijah are gone, and, if only for awhile, God stops talking.  And in the silence, Jesus starts walking down the mountain toward Jerusalem.  From our vantage point, we know what happens there.  And he asks us to follow and gives us all the portions we need to do just that.  And we can.  Because now we see the way to go.  Let us now go to Jerusalem and see this thing that has happened.

The journey to Bethlehem was much more to my liking.  I am content kneeling here, where there’s an aura of angels and the ever-present procession of shepherds and of kings who’ve come to kneel to the Newborn to whom we are newborn.  I want to linger here in Bethlehem in joy and celebration, knowing once I set my feet toward Jerusalem, the Child will grow, and I will be asked to follow. The time of Light and Angels is drawing to a close.  Just when I’ve settled contentedly into the quiet wonder of Star and Child, He bids me leave and follow.  How can I be expected to go back into darkness after sitting mangerside, bathed in such Light?  It’s hard to get away this time of year; I don’t know how I’ll manage.  It’s not just the time…the conversation along the way turns from Birth to Death.  I’m not sure I can stand the stress and pain; I have enough of those already.  Besides, I’ve found the lighting on the road to Jerusalem is very poor.  This time around, there is no Star…

view-of-city-of-jerusalemThe shepherds have left; they’ve returned to hillside and to sheep.  The Magi, too, have gone, having been warned in a dream, as was Joseph, who packed up his family and fled.  If I stay in Bethlehem, I stay alone.  God has gone on toward Jerusalem. (“Looking Toward Jerusalem”, from Kneeling in Jerusalem, by Ann Weems, p. 14-15.)

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9: 23b)

Grace and Peace,


Station V: Anonymous Bystander

Scripture Passage:  Mark 15: 21-24
They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. 22Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). 23And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. 24And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.

We know the town from where he came–Cyrene, an ancient Greek colony that became a Roman colony near modern-day Shahhat, Libya.  We know that he was a father of two sons.  Beyond that, this man Simon is essentially an anonymous bystander.  We don’t know why he was there at all.  Had he intended to come and bring his sons to this gory event or had they planned to visit Jerusalem, perhaps steep themselves in history and a little shopping, without realizing what this day would bring?  We don’t know what about him prompted the guards to literally pluck him out of the crowd.  All we know is that this man lives in history as the one, the only one, who helped Jesus carry his cross to Golgotha.

The Scriptures do not say that he responded in any way other than to do it.  It is interesting that in all those years upon years of God’s calls being met with “no, not me, please not me” that this anonymous man about whom we know little would be the one to do this.  So God calls a scared, young, no-name peasant girl to bring Jesus into the world and a foreign, probably dark-skinned, anonymous bystander to carry him out.  Isn’t that just like God?  Here, just before the end, God slips one more Divine reversal in.

You know, Simon had to be afraid.  Good grief.  Here he was in the middle of the processional to a crucifixion!  What if they killed him too?  What would happen to his sons?  His family was miles away.  How would they even know what had happened to him?  And, yet, he didn’t seem to question his role.  He put his hand on Jesus’ shoulder as if to say, “I’m here.”  Then he leaned down and picked up the heavy cross, being careful to place his hands rather than running them down the splintering wood.  And then they began to walk–Jesus and this man, this dark-skinned anonymous man who Jesus had never met, this child of God, this new disciple, this one who without hesitation carried the cross of his Savior.  He would go through the gates and up the hill, touching the edge between life and death. 

But, again, I have to ask, where were those disciples?  Where were those who Jesus had called, who Jesus had groomed, who had been part of Jesus’ ministry, who had been Jesus’ friends?  Why was it THIS man and not them?  Why was it Simon that when it was all said and done was the first to take the yoke of Christ unto himself?  After all, it seems, the disciples would have been in the best position.  It would have made a whole lot more sense.  But, then, where would we be?  Where would those of us who Jesus had called, who Jesus had groomed, who are part of Jesus’ ministry?  Why isn’t it us touching the edge between life and death?  Why do we hold back?

28 ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’  (Matthew 11: 28-30).  See, we read this with such comfort at what Jesus can do for us.  But what does it mean to “take my yoke”?  For, THAT is the way that our souls will rest.

So, on this Lenten journey, move from being an anonymous bystander to a disciple of Christ.

Grace and Peace,



Who Do You Say That I Am: Teacher

“Sermon on the Mount”
Carl Bloch, 19th century

Scripture Passage: Matthew 22: 36-40
“Teacher, which commandment im the law is the greatest?”  He said to him. “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the greatest and first commandment.  And a secon is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

I don’t think any of us dispute that Jesus was a teacher.  He was steeped in Scripture and rich with story.  Our canon depicts him as one that people literally followed around to hear and then stayed and hung on every word, sometimes, apparently, even forgetting to bring food to eat!  And yet it wasn’t like Jesus was toting around numerous commentaries or dragging a white board around with him.  I’m pretty sure that Jesus didn’t need my trusty little Sunday-morning tote bag crammed full of everything that I will need for the morning along with numerous books with little sticky notes in them where I’m supposed to read somewhat profound thoughts.  And think about it, did Jesus EVER ask the Disciples to memorize something?  The notion of Jesus as teacher was, it seems to me, more engaged.  I don’t envision Jesus as a lecturer.  I think he probably wanted to hear what people had to say.  In fact, I think Jesus was craving knowledge himself.  Surely he wasn’t plunked down on this earth, Holy Spirit aside, with a full knowledge of everything that was needed to be known.  I mean, really, how boring!  I don’t think God meant for Jesus to walk this earth to spout knowledge at us; I think that Jesus came to show us what it meant to be a disciple, to be a learner, to be a student.

Ruins of Synogogue
Sepphoris (Tzippori) Israel

So, what do you think Jesus was doing with those famous missing years?  What sort of life did he have between the manger and the Jordan, between birth and baptism?  Perhaps he was learning, perhaps even going through the somewhat arduous training to be a rabbi, to be a teacher, to be an authority on the Torah and what it means for one’s life.  Perhaps this training began early, early in his life.  In fact, one of the capital cities of first-century Galilee was Sepphoris, the “jewel” of Galilee.  Nazareth, which didn’t have much at all (remember, nothing good comes from Nazareth) was just three or four miles away.  And in the ruins of that city, guess what’s there?  This thriving Jewish-Roman city was the site of a rabbinical school.  Can’t you just see young Jesus sitting at the feet of the master teachers soaking in everything he could?  (So much, in fact, that the famous visit to Jerusalem as a child seemed only natural for him to stay behind and hang on every word that the rabbis had to offer.)

Jesus did not come to set us straight or to fill us with knowledge.  Jesus came to show us how to be a disciple, to show us how to thirst for knowledge and understanding, to show us how to thirst for God.  I’m pretty sure that Jesus taught sans lesson plans.  Instead, he engaged with those around him that they might know what it means to thirst for the Divine, to want so badly to know God that they would become a disciple, a learner, a student of the Divine.  William Arthur Ward once said that “the mediocre teacher tells; the good teacher explains; the superior teacher demonstrates; and the great teacher inspires.”  So, Jesus, the master teacher inspired us to be disciples.  Go and be filled…

On this thirty-first day of Lenten observance, be inspired by the master teacher.  Become a learner.

Grace and Peace,