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,



Dancing in the Rain

Image from “Singing in the Rain” (1952)
(with Gene Kelly)

Lectionary Passage:  John 6: 1-21
To read this passage online, go to http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=John+6:1-21&vnum=yes&version=nrsv

We love this story.  (And they must have loved it in the first century because the writers of all four gospels chose to include it their unique account of the Good News of Jesus Christ.) Yes, we like the notion of Jesus providing everything we need, bursting in just when we are at the end of our ropes, just when we need help the most, and fixing the ails of our life (or at least feeding us lunch!).

But notice (don’t you hate that…yes, I’m about to ruin your image of super-hero Jesus pulling lunch out of a hat or whatever we thought he did!) that the story never says that the boy’s lunch was the ONLY food there.  Perhaps there were some people holding back what they had brought, afraid to offer it for community consumption because, after all, what if they ran out?  What if they needed it tomorrow or the next day or after they retire?  So, perhaps the miracle lies not in some sort of image of Jesus creating something from nothing but rather in the little boy himself.  He was first, freely offering what he had to Jesus and the Disciples to do whatever they needed to do with it.  Now, note what was in the little boy’s lunch–barley bread and fish.  Barley is a very inexpensive and somewhat “unglamourous” grain and fish were plentiful.  After all, they were right next to this huge lake.  (Just to get it in your head, the “Sea” of Galilee is actually a huge lake.)  In other words, this was the lunch of the poor.  The little boy was more than likely not from a family of means.  Perhaps his mom had lovingly packed all they had into his lunch so that her son could have this experience of seeing this great man Jesus of whom they had only heard.  But before that ever happened, the little boy stood and offered everything he had.

And, then, well you know how it goes.  The person next to him saw what he had done, thinking that no longer could he now with a clear conscience keep what he had brought tucked away.  And then the person next to that person saw him offer what he had.  It went on and on, a veritable Spirit moving through the crowd.  The message is right.  It WAS a miracle!  And when they had finished eating, they realized that it wasn’t that there was enough for all.  There was more!  There were leftovers that were then gathered into baskets.  Maybe they were for later.  Maybe they were for those who needed it.  Or maybe they were offered as holy doggie bags to remind us that God always gives us way more than we really need. 

So what about those of us who feel that we need to be prepared for the next storm that is coming around the bend?  Well, keep reading.  The passage goes on to say that the disciples started across the lake in the darkness.  And, sure enough, the storm began to rage–blowing winds, crashing waves, beating sheets of rain bearing down upon them.  Wouldn’t you know?  See, this is what we were afraid of!  But, there is Jesus.  “Do not be afraid.  Do not be afraid.”  What is interesting is that the account never says that Jesus calmed the storm.  Jesus calmed the disciples.  Jesus reminded the disciples that no matter what, no matter how hungry or unprepared they are, no matter what storms come up unexpectedly, they are not alone.  It is truly a story of extraordinary abundance.

I was going to write today on the David and Bathsheeba story but I got up early this morning to get a drink of water.  And standing at the window in my kitchen, I saw the words on a plaque I have on the window sill:  “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass.  It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”  (I looked it up and the quote is attributed to Vivian Green.)  It’s a great thought.  Jesus is not a super hero that performs unexplainable miracles or plucks us out of the storms of life.  Jesus is much more.  When the storms come, when the winds rage, and when we just think we just don’t have enough for what’s coming, God invites us to dance, holding us until we find the rhythm that is deep within us and know the steps ourselves.

So, keep dancing!

Grace and Peace,


For those of you who are reading this through the St. Paul’s ESPACE link, welcome!  And for those who get this as a “blog” email, yes, I’m finally back!  I’m going to try to maybe do this 2-3 times a week.  Keep on me!  🙂  Shelli

Following Mystery

16th century English poet and priest, John Donne said that “to love God is to follow the mystery, to be led by its showing and withdrawing.”  So, what does that mean…to follow the mystery?  We live in a world where truth is defined as a collection of knowledge, as the accumulation of things known, of things proven.  We do not do well with mystery.  We attempt to conquer it, rather than follow it.  We pray that God will somehow swoop in and finally clear all of this chaos up for us once and for all.  We pray that God will give us understanding and easy roads.  We pray for enlightenment.  We pursue certainty.  We try to figure it all out.  And then Advent comes…

Behold!  Hear this!  Keep awake!  Be not afraid!  You see, things are about to change.  The world as you know it is about to be shaken to its core or, at least, to its senses.  All of those things that you have placed around you in at attempt to control your life will mean nothing.  All of those expectations that you have wrapped around yourself in an effort to prepare for the future are probably keeping your hands from doing what they are meant to do.  And as hard as it is for this “Type A” personality to admit, it is not our job to conquer the chaos of the world by organizing it into something that makes sense to us; rather, we are called to follow the Divine Mystery as it illuminates everything around us.  We are called to open our eyes to see what God is showing us.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love preparing for Christmas.  I love buying and wrapping gifts.  I love Christmas trees and lights.  I love baking and giving what I’ve baked away.  And all of those things are on my “to do” list.  But Advent is about mystery.  It is about being open to the revealing of the One whom we cannot define or control.  It is about being open to the possibility that God will enter this seemingly God-forsaken world not with loud, thrashing pronouncements so that we are certain that’s who it is, but more like a whisper in the quiet of the night in a small town and an unkempt grotto in the midst of the chaotic reality of this world.  Advent is about letting go of certainty and following the mystery.

In this season of Advent, give yourself the gift of not needing to be certain, of not needing to have everything planned.  Give yourself the gift of being open to the mystery that enters your life.

Grace and Peace,


And They Took Joseph to Egypt

Lectionary Text:  Genesis 37: (1-4, 12-22) 23-28:
So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore;and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt.Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood?Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers agreed.When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.

And they took Joseph to Egypt…so matter-of-fact, so simple, so explanatory.  But far from being merely historical data, this six word sentence represents a turning point in the story.  With these words the Genesis story turns the corner, moving from a story of a somewhat dysfunctional family as their lives are intricately woven with the breath of God to the story of a people growing into God’s people.  We begin to prepare for the Exodus story.  Nothing will ever be the same again.  We know what is to come–slavery, plagues, wilderness, and, finally, deliverance, redemption.  This is the stuff of transformation.

When this Scripture (sorry, I cut off the first part!) was read this morning, I was struck by these words.  I know that I’ve passed them over time and time again. After all, this is an important story and there’s a lot to grasp–favorite sons, dreams, beautiful coats, family squabbles, murder, intrigue, conspiracy, enemies, slavery, lies.  (And just for the record, I would like it to be noted that no matter what I did to my brother Donnie growing up, I NEVER sold him into slavery!)  And then you take a breath and, oh yeah, “and they took Joseph to Egypt.”  What struck me is how similar those words are to some others:

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.”

Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration.  When I realized that earlier this week, I thought it was just odd.  I mean, really, don’t we celebrate that right before Lent begins?  But the abrupt ending to today’s Old Testament Scripture made me think a little bit more about it.  In this Matthean account of the Transfiguration, the writer has Jesus and the disciples headed down the mountain.  They were talking.  Jesus warned them to be quiet about what they had just seen.  And in the same breath, he gave them a foretaste of what would come.  So, we have Jesus walking down the mountain.  Where is he going?  He’s going to Jerusalem.  And we know what happens there.  This is the turning point.  There is no going back.  A new way of being has begun.

And they took Joseph to Egypt…And they took Jesus to Jerusalem.

We all have Egypts.  We all have Jerusalems.  They are those watershed moments in our lives that are bumpy and rough and uncomfortable.  They are that way because it means that we have changed.  We have been through a transition; we have been transformed; we have been transfigured into something else.

We don’t know what Monday morning will hold for our economy.  There are those who will say that our “best years” are behind us, those who yearn for the 40’s and the 50’s when the United States was “on top of the mountain.”  Really?  I’m pretty clear that our African-American brothers and sisters will disagree with you.  Are our “best years” the ones in which only some of us are on top?  That’s sad.  I don’t think so.  Perhaps we’re being sold to Egypt.  I don’t know.  Maybe we’ve got a long wilderness ahead.  Maybe we are walking down that mountain headed for who knows what.  Maybe we will find ourselves in Egypt.  Maybe we will find ourselves in Jerusalem.  Maybe we will find ourselves enslaved by something we never saw coming or crucified by those who want to maintain things the way they are.  Maybe there is a rough road ahead.  Maybe not.  Maybe our stocks will pop back up tomorrow and everything will be hunky dory.  Maybe not.  Whatever happens, we are in the midst of change. The road to change is not always an easy one.  But somewhere on that road, we will find transformation.  We will find deliverance.  We will find redemption.  But right now we’ve got to come down from the mountain…After all, I think it’s WAY too cloudy to see what’s going on up here.  (Hmmm!  Maybe that’s our whole problem.)

And they took Joseph to Egypt…and you know what?  No one was ever the same again.  We’ve been to the mountaintop…now is the time to move on.

Grace and Peace,



Life is full of disruptions.  I’ve spent the last couple of hours checking on whether or not the United States government is going to shut down tomorrow.  Apparently, in a last minute compromise of sorts, that has been averted–at least for now.  I suppose we’ll play this game again in a week.  Life is full of disruptions.

We are definitely creatures of habit, beings dependent upon the rhythms in our lives–the rhythmic workings of our own physical bodies, the rhythms of day and night, of seasons, of time, and the rhythms that we’ve created in our own lives.  These rhythms are important to us.  They bring us a sense of order.  Life is just easier when it meets our own expectations of what will happen.  But life is full of disruptions.  Perhaps that is one of our lessons for this season of Lent.  In its own way, Lent is about disruptions.  It is about a change in rhythm.  It provides an opportunity to break from the familiar, to release oneself from the staid and sometimes almost robotic way of existing through which we walk without much thought or caring.  Lent invites us to think and care by offering us a sort of holy disruption.  It is a way of changing our rhythm, of relocating our center as we recalibrate our priorities and our lives.  It prepares us to see things differently.  It prepares us for what is to come.

For my Lenten discipline this season, I have been writing on this blog.  It is not always easy.  In fact, sometimes it is downright disruptive (as I’m sure you can tell on those days when I don’t get it in very early!).  And yet, this holy disruption has changed the rhythm in my life.  It has made me think more deeply and more often about things.  It has opened my eyes to ways that I can encounter God that before I would have sped past and completely missed.  It has, indeed, relocated my center.  And as I approach Jerusalem, I am ready for that disruption too.  But the whole point of Lent as a holy disruption implies that it is, or should be, a point of permanent change.  Unlike the bill that is at this moment waiting to pass the House, Lent is not really meant to be a mere stop-gap.  We’re not really supposed to just go back to “life as usual” when the Easter lilies come out.  (Now, you see, that is all the more reason why you shouldn’t give up chocolate for Lent!)  It really is about change and preparing us as we trudge toward the biggest disruption that Creation has ever known.  Because there at the Cross, life as we know it was disrupted by death and then death as we know it was disrupted by Life.  And neither death nor life will ever be the same again.

So, as the drums of Crucifixion begin to get louder,  let your disruption become your Life!

Grace and Peace,