The Path of the Wind

WindScripture Passage: John 3: 1-17 (Lent 2A)

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

This is a hard one.  More of us are probably a lot more like Nicodemus than we care to admit.  I don’t think that there’s any question that he was smart, well-learned even.  He was a rabbi, a teacher of all things Scriptural and all things of faith.  He knew what questions to ask and we should give him the benefit of the doubt that he was continuing to probe and explore.  Perhaps he wasn’t as sure anymore of his own certainty when it came to his beliefs.  But he wasn’t ready to admit it even to himself.  He wasn’t really ready to go there yet.  So he goes to Jesus in the dark of night, cloaked in mystery and secrets.  And Jesus begins to explain in the way that Jesus always does–not literally, not factually, but open-ended, inviting one not to believe what he is saying but to enter who he was.

You know, when you have a seminary degree, people often assume that you somehow spent several years of your life studying so that you will have all the answers.  Well, sadly, that would not be the case.  You see, not so sadly, seminary does not teach you the answers; it teaches you how to ask the questions.  That’s what sort of makes up faith, don’t you think–questions that leave us desiring more, questions that will not allow us to rest on the laurels of who we have figured out God is, what we have figured out God meant (Really?)  and what we have figured out God wants us to do.  Faith is what reminds us that there is always something more, always something up ahead, always a faint road that God calls us to walk not so that we will know the answers but so that we will become The Way to God.

And, interestingly enough, this calling often comes when we are at our most vulnerable, cloaked in the dark of night, so to speak.  The anonymous 14th century mystic described it as “the cloud of unknowing”, proposing that the only way to know God is to let go of what we know, to risk surrendering ego and mind and what we have “figured out”, and enter the cloud of the unknown, where we would truly know God.  (The 4th century bishop Gregory of Nyssa contended that as we journeyed deeper into faith, we entered darker and darker places and in the darkness we could finally see what needed to be seen.) That’s where Nicodemus was–still struggling, still wandering somewhat aimlessly in the darkness, still asking “how can this be?”, but beginning to know. (Not “understand”, mind you, just know.)

Jesus tells the questing rabbi that he must be born from above (or “again”, or “anew”–the Greek anothen remains ambiguous at best.)  But whatever it is, you have to let the wind blow where it chooses and just be in it.  When I read that, I thought of “riding out” Hurricane Ike in my pier and beam bungalow a couple of years ago with my mom (who didn’t want me to do that by myself) and my rather confused Black Lab.  What we realized was that, as opposed to a house with a slab that remains staid and unyielding. my house is built so that the hurricane-force winds swirls around it and UNDER it.  It just moves with the wind.  It doesn’t have to bend or push.  There were no straining or creeking walls.  It just moves.  It gives itself to the wind. (Conversely, the tornado that grazed the slab house in which I now live convinced me in that moment that the roof was going to definitely come off!  Thankfully, that did not happen–it just creaked horribly for several minutes over me and yet another confused Black Lab!)

In this Season of Lent, the winds of change are swirling all about.  We hear the sounds but we do not know its path.  We, too, must give ourselves to the wind, must enter the darkness, the cloud of unknowing, and walk, trusting that we will find ourselves in the place where we belong.  We are not always called to understand, but only to know.

Where does the wind come from, Nicodemus?  Rabbi, I do not know.  Nor can you tell where it will go. 

Put yourself into the path of the wind, Nicodemus.  You will be borne along by something greater than yourself.  You are proud of your position, content in your security, but you will perish in such stagnant air. 

Put yourself into the path of the wind, Nicodemus.  Bring leaves will dance before you.  You will find yourself in places you never dreamed of going; you will be forced into situation you have dreaded and find them like a coming home. 

You will have power you never had before, Nicodemus.  You will be a new man. 

Put yourself into the path of the wind.

      (Myra Scovel, “The Wind of the Spirit”, 1970, in Hearing God’s Call, by Ben Campbell Johnson)

In this Season of Changing Winds, what things that you have “figured out” do you need to release?  What will it take for you to let go of needing to understand?  What will it mean for you to know?

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

The Path of the Wind

WindScripture Passage: John 3: 1-17 (Lent 2A)

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

This is a hard one.  More of us are probably a lot more like Nicodemus than we care to admit.  I don’t think that there’s any question that he was smart, well-learned even.  He was a rabbi, a teacher of all things Scriptural and all things of faith.  He knew what questions to ask and we shouold give him the benefit that he was continuing to probe and explore.  Perhaps he wasn’t as sure anymore of his own certainty when it came to his beliefs.  But he wasn’t ready to admit it even to himself.  He wasn’t really ready to go there yet.  So he goes to Jesus in the dark of night, cloaked in mystery and secrets.  And Jesus begins to explain in the way that Jesus always does–not literally, not factually, but open-ended, inviting one not to believe what he is saying but to enter who he was.

You know, when you have a seminary degree, people often assume that you somehow spent several years of your life studying so that you will have all the answers.  Well, sadly, that would not be the case.  You see, not so sadly, seminary does not teach you the answers; it teaches you how to ask the questions.  That’s what sort of makes up faith, don’t you think–questions that leave us desiring more, questions that will not allow us to rest on the laurels of who we have figured out God is, what we have figured out God meant (Really?)  and what we have figured out God wants us to do.  Faith is what reminds us that there is always something more, always something up ahead, always a faint road that God calls us to walk not so that we will know the answers but so that we will become The Way to God.

And, interestingly enough, this calling often comes when we are at our most vulnerable, cloaked in the dark of night, so to speak.  The anonymous 14th century mystic described it as “the cloud of unknowing”, proposing that the only way to know God is to let go of what we know, to risk surrendering ego and mind and what we have “figured out”, and enter the cloud of the unknown, where we would truly know God.  (The 4th century bishop Gregory of Nyssa contended that as we journeyed deeper into faith, we entered darker and darker places and in the darkness we could finally see what needed to be seen.) That’s where Nicodemus was–still struggling, still wandering somewhat aimlessly in the darkness, still asking “how can this be?”, but beginning to know. (Not “understand”, mind you, just know.)

Jesus tells the questing rabbi that he must be born from above (or “again”, or “anew”–the Greek anothen remains ambiguous at best.)  But whatever it is, you have to let the wind blow where it chooses and just be in it.  When I read that, I thought of “riding out” Hurricane Ike in my pier and beam bungalow with my mom (who didn’t want me to do that by myself) and my rather confused Black Lab.  What we realized was that, as opposed to a house with a slab that remains staid and unyielding. my house is built so that the hurricane-force winds swirls around it and UNDER it.  It just moves with the wind.  It doesn’t have to bend or push.  There were no straining or creeking walls.  It just moves.  It gives itself to the wind.

In this Season of Lent, the winds of change are swirling all about.  We hear the sounds but we do not know its path.  We, too, must give ourself to the wind, must enter the darkness, the cloud of unknowing, and walk, trusting that we will find ourselves in the place where we belong.  We are not always called to understand, but only to know.

Where does the wind come from, Nicodemus?  Rabbi, I do not know.  Nor can you tell where it will go. 

Put yourself into the path of the wind, Nicodemus.  You will be borne along by something greater than yourself.  You are proud of your position, content in your security, but you will perish in such stagnant air. 

Put yourself into the path of the wind, Nicodemus.  Bring leaves will dance before you.  You will find yourself in places you never dreamed of going; you will be forced into situation you have dreaded and find them like a coming home. 

You will have power you never had before, Nicodemus.  You will be a new man. 

Put yourself into the path of the wind. 

      (Myra Scovel, “The Wind of the Spirit”, 1970, in Hearing God’s Call, by Ben Campbell Johnson)

In this Season of Changing Winds, what things that you have “figured out” do you need to release?  What will it take for you to let go of needing to understand?  What will it mean for you to know?

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

Behold, A Mystery!

Mystery ForestScripture Passage for Reflection: 1 Corinthians 15:51

Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed.

This Season of Advent is ripe with mystery.  I guess it’s conventional and comfortable to take all the stories as they are written, to make sure that Jesus was born the way we assume him to be born, to make sure that there was nothing that might be in question.  And so we spend the season praying over and over to God that God will somehow get our perspectives straight; in other words, that God will swoop in and finally clear it all up for us once and for all.  But mystery still remains!  There are oh so many questions.  Why this way?  Why Mary?  Why that time? (I mean the world wasn’t any more ready for it than it is now!)  Why NOT now?  Why THIS man?  Why THIS place?  Was it in a manger or a grotto or the back room attached to the house that was built for the animals in that century?  And why didn’t they have room?  I mean, really, if God was coming into the world, why didn’t God at least make reservations for the occasion?  So much of this doesn’t make sense at all.  Wouldn’t it have been more efficient of God’s coming into the world was better documented, perhaps well-explained so that we’d have something with which to work?  It would definitely be oh so much easier.

The truth is, surety and doubt, belief and questions are all a part of our faith.  They are all a part of the story.  They are the way the story unfolds. When I was in seminary, Perkins arranged for students to participate in a small question and answer type discussion with noted author and screenwriter, John Irving.  One of the questions that someone asked him was how he went about constructing his stories.  The question was, of course, not surprising.  The answer, though, might have been to some.  Irving said that when he sat down to write, he always wrote the ending first and then backed through the story, creating characters, plot, and theme.  The point of the story is, after all, that with which we are left.  Regardless of where it’s located in the work, the point is usually realized at the end.  I think that’s what God has done.  God wrote the ending first, the recreation of all there is, the Kingdom of God in its fullest, and then began to back through the story.  So this coming of the Godself into our midst becomes the turning point that leads us that Way.

Eternal life was already there for us written into the deepest part of our being, the very image of God within us.  But the way to that life is murky at best.  So God came not as one wielding weath and power and the things of this world but as one holding nothing, a tiny baby with nothing but the love of two people who had promised to show him the Way.  God never intended that this way would be one of certitude.  The journey is one of seeking, of questioning, of wrestling, until one finds his or her way to God.  Having all the answers would have shut us down long ago.  It is the mystery that invites us to journey.  Another noted author, Andrew Greeley, once wrote, “Life is prodigious,  overwhelming. In that there is mystery, hint, and perhaps sacrament…The excessiveness of life is the best sacrament we could ask for, a hint of how powerful, how determined, and how excessive You are.”  Maybe God’s plan was not to bring the Divine down to our understanding but to give us something to journey toward.  Mary’s part was a journey into the unknown.  So was Joseph’s.  So is ours.  But it is only unknown until we embrace it as Home.

God…leads us step by step, from event to event.  Only afterwards, as we look back over the way we have come and reconsider certain important moments in our lives in the light of all that has followed them, or when we survey the whole progress of our lives, do we experience the feeling of having been led without knowing it, the feeling that God has mysteriously guided us. (Paul Tournier)

Reflection:  What part of this mystery is the hardest for you?  Where do you need to journey?

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

A Pondering Faith

 

Church of the Annunciation, Nazareth, Israel
Church of the Annunciation, Nazareth, Israel

Scripture Passage for Reflection:  Luke 1: 26-35

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’* But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’* The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born* will be holy; he will be called Son of God.

So, what does it mean to ponder?  If you read this Scripture, it does not mean thinking something through until you understand it or until you “get it”.   Nowhere does it say that Mary was ever completely sure about what was going to happen.  Nowhere does it say that she ever stopped asking questions, that she ever stopped pondering what this would mean for her life.  Nowhere does it say that she expected this turn of events.  When you think about it, Mary was probably just like the rest of us.  She probably pretty well had her life figured out.  She was just trying to live it.  And then this angel shows up.  “Excuse me Mary, I know that this might be a little out of the box for you but I need you to stop everything that you’re doing and listen.  God has something special just for you.  See, if it’s not too much trouble, we’d like you to birth the Savior, the Son of God and the Son of Humanity, Emmanual, the Messiah, the very Godself into being.  And, we’d really like to get this show on the road now.”

What if Mary had said no?  What if her fear or her plans had gotten the best of her?  What if she was just too busy planning for whatever was going to happen next in her life?  What if she really didn’t have time to do any pondering today? Now, as much as we’d like to think that we have the whole story of God neatly constructed between the covers of our Bible or on that nifty little Bible app that you have on your iPhone, you and I both know that there is lots of God’s work that is missing.  We really just sort of get the highlights.  Who knows?  Maybe Mary wasn’t the  first that God asked to do this.  Maybe she was the second, or the tenth, or the 386th.  After all, this is a pretty big deal.  I mean, this pretty much shoots that long-term life plan out of the water.  But, you see, this story is not about Mary; it’s about God.  And through her willingness to ponder, her willingness to let go of the life that she had planned, her willingness to open herself to God’s entrance into her life and, indeed, into her womb, this young, dark-haired, dark-skinned girl from the wrong side of the tracks in a sleepy little suburb of Jerusalem called Bethlehem, was suddenly thrust into God’s redemption of the world.  It is in this moment that all those years of envisioning what would be, all those visions that we’ve talked about, it is here, in this moment, that they begin to be.

Annunciation literally means “the announcement”.  The word by itself probably holds no real mystery.  But it is the beginning of the central tenet of our entire Christian faith—The Annunciation, Incarnation, Transfiguration, Resurrection.  For us, it begins the mystery of Christ Jesus.  For us, the fog lifts and there before us is the bridge between the human and the Divine.  Now we Protestants really don’t tend to give it much credence.  We sort of speed through this passage we read as some sort of precursor to “In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus…” so we can light our Christmas candle.  This, for us, is the typical beginning of the birth story. But think back.  Something happened nine months before.  This human Jesus, like all of us, had to be grown and nurtured in the womb before the miracles and the ministry started.  The Feast of the Annunciation is the turning point of human history.  It is in this moment, this very moment, that God steps through the fog into humanity and, just like every human that came before, must wait to be fully birthed into this world.

What about us?  When do you let yourself ponder?  When do you expect to encounter the unexpected?  What is your answer when the angel or some other God-sent character comes bursting into your life:  “Excuse me [You], I know that this might be a little out of the box for you but I need you to stop everything that you’re doing and listen.  God has something special just for you.  See, if it’s not too much trouble, we’d like you to birth the Savior, the Son of God and the Son of Humanity, Emmanual, the Messiah, the very Godself into being.  And, we’d really like to get this show on the road now.”  Again, what if Mary had said no?  So, why are we so different from that scared little girl.  So, maybe it’s time for us to get busy pondering!

Annunciation 2Mary pondered these things in her heart, and countless generations have pondered them with her.  Mary’s head is bowed, and she looks up at the angel through her lashes.  There is possibly the faintest trace of a frown on her brow.  “How shall this be, seeing that I know not a man?” she asks, and the angel, the whole of Creation, even God himself, all hold their  breath as they wait for what she will say next.

“Be it unto me according to thy word,” she says, and jewels blossom like morning glories on the arch above them.  Everything has turned to gold.  A golden angel.  A golden girl.  They are caught up together in a stately golden dance.  Their faces are grave.  From a golden cloud between them and above, the Leader of the dance looks on.

The announcement has been made and heard.  The world is with child.

Frederick Buechner, The Faces of Jesus:   A Life Story, p. 8-9

Reflection:  What is God asking you to do with your life?  What part of the story is yours to play, or yours to write, or yours to live?  When have you taken time to ponder?

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

 

And Hear the Angels Sing!

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though youa are small
among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one
who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2)

The day is almost upon us.  We’ve got presents wrapped and under the tree and your kitchen probably smells like the cookies that just came out of the oven (or perhaps a tastefully-chosen cinnamon and eggnog candle that mimics the same effect.)  Here at St. Paul’s, we’re approaching the end of the week of frenzy that has included a mad scramble to make sure we have all the information for the 9,846 different bulletins that are needed over the next few weeks. (Well, maybe that’s a gross exageration, but you get the idea!)  Plans are in place.  I think we’re ready…

Really?  We do this every year.  We walk through Christmas sort of like we’re preparing for a very familiar play.  The sets are in place; the costumes are ironed; the lines are memorized.  In those days a decree went out… Mary and Joseph get to Bethlehem at the appropriate time and the innkeeper, following the lines, tells them that there’s no room.  The baby shows up on cue and we light our candles and sing Silent Night and then hang around with the shepherds while we wait a week for The Wisemen to make their appearance.  And then we go back to our lives.  Really?  So, how’s that mystery thing working for you?

God doesn’t usually show up on cue or in the way we’ve planned for God to show up.  Perhaps God shows up when we’ve gone back to our lives.  God tends to show up not where the beckoning is loudest but where the need is greatest.  God comes when our questions are so overwhelming that we begin to doubt and gives the Divine a face and a name.  God comes when the world is not prepared, when the world, mired in oppression and poverty and greed, has not yet gotten around to cleaning itself up and making itself presentable, when the world has made no room and so God makes a home in a place that we assumed was downright godforsaken and bathes it in light.  God comes into our darkness and illumines our way.  God comes in mystery not to confuse us or make it harder to believe but to give us a taste of the transcendent mystery and amazing miracle that is part of us all.  God will come when and where and in the way that God will come.  And more than likely it will be outside of the box we’ve built for God.  When you realize that you do not know, it is there that you will finally see Emmanuel, the God who has been with us the whole time.  Rainer Maria Rilke said to “have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves.  The point is, to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps, then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

Mary and Joseph are close to Bethlehem.  The roads are getting busier and the dust is making it harder to see.  It’s like traveling in darkness.  They are tired.  It would be nice to have a soft bed.  And they do not know what is up ahead.  They do not know what the future holds.  Let it be according to your Word!

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load, Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing:
O rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing.

(Edmund H. Sears, 1849)
         On this day before Christmas Eve, give yourself the gift of mystery.  Let go of your preconceptions (and even your regrets!) about what Christmas holds and what you’ve planned Christmas to be and hear the angels sing!

Putting On Shoes



God became human.  Well, sure, God can do that if God chooses, but why?  Why would the Divine CHOOSE to become human, CHOOSE to live a life that includes suffering and fear, CHOOSE to live in this imperfect world?  It just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  I suppose it’s part of that mystery thing.  And the truth is, we struggle with it.  We try to justify it.  You’ve heard it all before:  “God was the perfect human,” “God was only posing as a human,” or “It was part of God’s plan.”  Really?  God PLANNED to be born into poverty, PLANNED to be born into an oppressive society, PLANNED to struggle, PLANNED to be disliked, and PLANNED to die?  I don’t really know if that was all part of God’s plan or not.  Is it so hard for us to accept that God just CHOSE to be one of us?  After all, part of being human is being subjected to a certain randomness of order, to a life that, as hard as it is for us to imagine, is beyond our control, and to not only the free will of ourself, but also the free will, the choice to do right or do wrong, that others around us have. Being human means that not all of life is a predictable pattern, not all of life is planned.  But, nevertheless, God became human.  After eons and eons of trying to get our attention, God put on shoes and walked with us.

“Incarnate” literally means “taking on flesh.”  It means becoming tangible, real, touchable, accessible.  It means becoming human.  It means putting on shoes. In the book Everything Belongs, Richard Rohr calls it God’s “most dangerous disguise.”  After all, taking on flesh, becoming tangible, becoming real, touchable, accessible also makes one vulnerable and that is incredibly dangerous.  God put on shoes to show us how to be vulnerable, to show us how to give up a piece of ourself and open ourself to the Divine.

The Shoe Heap, Auschwitz, Poland

More than a decade ago, I had the opportunity to visit Auschwitz, Poland.  I expected to be appalled; I expected to be moved; I expected to be saddened at what I would fine.  I did not expect to become so personally or spiritually involved.  As you walk through the concentration camp, you encounter those things that belonged to the prisoners and victims that were unearthed when the camp was captured–suitcases, eye glasses, books, clothes, artifical limbs, and shoes–lots and lots and lots and lots of shoes–mountains of humanity, all piled up in randomness and namelessness and despair.  This is humanity at its worst.  This is humanity making unthinkable decisions about one another based on the need to be in control, based on the need to be proved right or worthy or acceptable at the expense of others’ lives, based on the assumption that one human is better or more deserving than another.

And yet, God CHOSE to be human.  God CHOSE to put on shoes, temporarily separating the Godself from the Holy Ground that is always a part of us, and entering our vulnerability.  God willingly CHOSE to become vulnerable and subject to humanity at its worst.  But God did this because beneath us all is Holy Ground.  God came to this earth and put on shoes and walked this earth that we might learn to take our shoes off and feel the Holy Ground beneath our feet.  God CHOSE to be human not so we would learn to be Divine (after all, that is God’s department) but so that we would learn what it means to take off our shoes and feel the earth, feel the sand, feel the rock, feel the Divine Creation that is always with us and know that part of being human is knowing the Divine.  Part of being human is being able to feel the earth move under your feet, to be vulnerable, to be tangible, to be real, to take on flesh, to be incarnate.  Part of being human is making God come alive.
  
In this season of Advent, give yourself the gift of being human, being vulnerable, and knowing the God who is Divine. Take off your shoes and feel the earth move under your feet.  God is coming!  The earth is beginning to move!

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

    

Open Season

“…who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary…”

We say those words every Sunday.  We stand and we look at the cross and we say with all our heart that we believe these words to be true.  Now, the “conceived” part we get–conceived, thought up, breathed into–Jesus was God’s way after eons of breathing Creation into being of finally breathing the very Godself into the world.  The Divine has come to walk with us.  But this Virgin Mary thing?  What is that?  Jesus, born, born as a human, born as a baby.  As unromantic and “un-Nativity-like” as it may be, Jesus was fussy and colicy.  The Son of God, in all likelihood, messed up his first-century diaper.  (I’ve never been accused of being overly-reverent!)  Mary and Joseph were probably sleep-deprived.  And as time went on, Jesus, like all of us, had to learn to walk and talk and be.   He had to grow into who he was. But when’s the last time you held a newborn baby?  When’s the last time you held a baby that was only hours old? It’s just like holding the entire hope of the world in your arms.  There are no preconceptions; there are no agendas; there is no one to impress or keep from disappointing.  There is only a pure and undefiled openness to what comes next, to what God holds.  There is only hope.  You can smell it.  Maybe it’s the smell of birth.  But maybe it’s the smell of the Divine.

So does it really matter?  We get so wrapped up in whether or not Mary’s virginity was literally intact when Jesus was born.  Again, does it really matter?  Does it really matter when you are holding the hope of the world?  Does it really matter when you are holding the world’s salvation in your arms?  Think about it.  Jesus was born, Son of God and Son of Humanity.  Jesus was born to Mary, the mother of the Salvation of the World.  Perhaps the translators of the writing by the writer known as Matthew had it right and Mary was a virgin in every sense of the word–pure, undefiled, and open to receive.  But, more importantly,  Mary was a virgin in the spiritual sense of the word–pure, undefiled, and open to receive what comes next, open to receive whatever God held for her life.  Mary opened her heart and her life that she might birth God into this world.

In this season of Advent, we are called to do the same.  14th century theologian, Meister Eckhart said that “we are all meant to be mothers of God, for God is always needing to be born.”  We are all called to be virgin–pure, undefiled, and open to receive.  We are all called to birth God into this world.  How open are you to what comes next?  How open are you to what God holds for your life?  This is the open season.  This is the season when we shed all the preconceptions of what we think God is.  This is the season when we let go of our need to explain God’s coming into the world and be open to what comes next.  So does it really matter?  You bet it does.  It is the Hope of the World that depends on it.
 
In this season of Advent, give yourself the gift of being open to whatever it is God holds for you and birthing God into your life.  Be virgin.  Be a womb for the hope of the world.

Grace and Peace,

Shelli