What It’s All About

resurrection-lightEarly on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”… 

 11But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20: 1-2, 11-18)

These hours have been such a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions.  But in this moment, I am beginning to see what it was all about.  I want to hold her and comfort her and explain it all but Jesus’ young friend Mary is running around with a mix of hysteria and excitement.  Maybe she, too, is beginning to understand.  I always knew who he was, knew from that surreal night when the angel came.  I probably would have thought I was losing it but Joseph had had a dream too.   Oh, that seems so long ago and yet, I remember it like it happened just a second ago. No one really understood.  No one ever understood.  But we did.  We knew who he was.  But not until this moment did I really grasp it.

I hope that the world does not take this as a do-over of some sort.  Because it is all part of it—everything up to this moment and everything that comes to be.  All of time and all of space and all creation points to this and is illuminated by it.  All of those generations that carried the story to me and the generations that stretch out beyond where I will ever see are in this moment.  I now understand that that strange brilliance that led us to Bethlehem and then stayed with us through the night that he was born has been with me always.  And he showed me that.  But I didn’t understand until now.

The memories come flooding back to me now—more than three decades of memories.  They will take several days to process.  But now they are not memories wrapped in grief.  I understand that they are the story—his story, my story, Joseph’s story, the world’s story.  God came into the world and walked with me.  God invited me to dance with the Divine, to touch, to love, to hold the Godself.  There was nothing special about me.  I have always been so ordinary.  But now I see that my life is an incredible mix of the ordinary and the sacred.  God has come.  And now I understand that God was always here.  And will be forevermore. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.  Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed.”  I do feel blessed.  I pray that the world will begin to understand.

There was, indeed, something I had missed about Christianity, and now all of a sudden I could see what it was.  It was the Resurrection!  How could I have been a church historian and a person of prayer who loved God and still not known that the most fundamental Christian reality is not the suffering of the cross but the life it brings?…The foundation of the universe for which God made us, to which God draws us, and in which God keeps us is not death, but joy.  (Roberta Bondi)

FOR TODAY:  Begin to make room.  There’s more to the story than you thought.

Peace to you in this often-hectic week,

Shelli

More To the Story

Light into the world2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, 4and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5and Solomon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6and Jesse the father of King David.  And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph,* 8and Asaph* the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos,* and Amos* the father of Josiah, 11and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.  12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.* (Matthew 1: 2-16)

We Christians sometimes seem to have this notion that Jesus, Emmanuel, God-With-Us, Messiah, the Savior of the World just sort of dropped out of the sky one cold winter night in Bethlehem and the world began. But the story of the birth of the Divine One into this world is not the beginning but the next chapter in a story that had been read into the world for volumes of the story before.  Jesus came, God with Us, after eons of the earth straining to see the Light.  He came into centuries upon centuries of waiting journeyers, those who had prepared the way for his coming, not knowing what that would be but knowing that it would be.  Those that came before are not just a prelude to the story but are part of the story itself.

I would guess that most of you sort of skip over these verses in the Gospel from the writer known as Matthew. After all, the names are hard to pronounce and, really, what do they bring to the lovely story that we have compiled from the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and a little “tradition” thrown in. But they ARE important, SO important. They are the story of our connection. If the writer had not been of Jewish descent (I think the fact that he (or she!) starts with Abraham is the first of many clues in that Gospel version.), the story might have gone back to the beginning—you know, that “in the beginning” part. It’s all part of the story.

In the beginning, God came into the darkness, into the chaos that was the world and filled it with Light. And it was good. And God went on to fill the illuminated world with Creation—waters that bring and sustain life, soils that would continue to birth life from decay, green and blue foliage reaching into the earth for their nutrients, animals of prey and animals that would become companions to us (including the one that just demanded that I open the window blinds so he can make sure no one is going down his road!), and we humans. And then God continued to walk with the Creation, guiding them through the times that they listened and patiently waiting for their return when they did not. And after generations of both failed and incredibly wonderful journeys, God again came to once again bring light to a world who had allowed part of the light of Creation to go out. And it was good. And this time, God came not as the Light on us but the Light within us, coming as one of us to show us how to be Light.

No, Jesus did not just pop out of nothingness. The story had been in place long before. And we, too, did not just appear. Our lives are not merely individual existences that we have worked so hard to create. Our lives are part of the ongoing story of the world becoming more and more illuminated until the darkness is no more. THIS Advent, remember the story and do not forget the light that you are called to carry forward into the next chapter of the story. Even now, God is bringing Light to a partially dark world. We can only imagine where God will take the incredible story next.

God showed me a little thing, the size of a hazelnut, in a palm of my hand, and it was as round as a ball. I looked at it with my minds’ eye and I thought, “What can this be?” An answer came, “It is all that is made.” I marveled that it could last, for I thought it might have crumbled to nothing, it was so small. And the answer came into my mind, “It lasts and ever shall because God loves it.” And all things have their being through the love of God. In these little things I saw three truths. The first is that God made it. The second is that God loves it. The third is that God looks after it. (Julian of Norwich)

 

Grace and Peace,

 

Shelli

 

Be the Story

the_nativity_story_08

Scripture Text:  Genesis 1: 1-3, 31a

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…God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.

There is not one of us that does not love The Christmas Story.  It’s got it all–heartache, darkness, intrigue, danger, animals, innocence, an oppressive government, and a baby to boot.  It’s got all those things that make great tales.  No wonder it’s a bestseller!  No wonder there are so many songs written about it (that we at this moment cannot WAIT to sing and for some are even irritated that we are NOT!)  But for all the romantic notions of a baby born into a cold desert night in a small town on the other side of the world to poor, struggling parents, this story is not about a birth.  It’s not just a story about Jesus.  This is the Story of God.

 

It began long before this.  It began in the beginning.  It began when God breathed a part of the Godself into being and created this little world.  And as the story unfolded, as God’s Creation grew into being, God remained with them, a mysterious, often unknown Presence, that yearned to be in relationship with what God had breathed into being.  And once in a while, God’s children would stop what they were doing long enough to know and acknowledge the incarnations of God.  Once in awhile, they would encounter a burning bush or a parting sea or an unfathomable cloud on the top of a mountain.  Once in awhile they would stop, take off their shoes, and feel the holiness beneath their feet.  But more often than not, they struggled in darkness, they struggled in war, they struggled in oppression and injustice because they didn’t see the Light that was with them.  God called them and God sent them and some were prophets and some were wise and some were yearning themselves to be with God.  Some wrote hymns and poetry telling of their yearning and others just bowed and hoped that God would notice.

 

This wasn’t enough.  It wasn’t enough for the people and it wasn’t enough for God.  God yearned to be with what God had created.  God desperately wanted humanity to be what they were made to be, to come home to the Divine, to be part of the unfolding story.  And so God came once again, God Incarnate, into this little world.  But this time, God came as what God had created.  And so God was born into a cold, dark night.  But the earth was almost too full.  There was little room for God.  But, on that night, in a dark grotto on the outskirts of holiness, God was born.  The Divine somehow made room in a quiet, little corner of the world.  God came to show Creation what had been there all along.  And, yet, there was Newness; there was Light; there was finally Meaning; there was God Made Known.

 

The Incarnation (the “big I” one!) is God’s unveiling.  It is God coming out of the darkness and out of the shadows and showing us what we could not see before.  God became one of us to show us how to be like God in the world.  So, in this season, we again hear the story.  We hear the story of God.  But unless we realize that it is our story, it still won’t be enough.  God came as God Incarnate into this little world to tell the story that goes back to the beginning.  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.  What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.  (John 1: 1-5)  And the story continues…BE the Story.

 

God delights in the human imagination.  No one person can claim to hold the key to unlock what God intended, because what God intended was for each generation to read its story into the text.  (Sandy Eisenberg Sasso)

 

FOR TODAY (OR YESTERDAY!):  BE the Story.  What does that mean?  God did not come into this world so you could celebrate Christmas; God came so that you would know it is your story.  BE the Story.

 

Grace and Peace,

 

Shelli

 

You Start at the Very Beginning…

Dawn in the wildernessScripture Text:  Mark 1: 1-8

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’”

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Do you remember the song from “The Sound of Music”?  “You start at the very beginning.  A very good place to start.  When you read, you begin with A-B-C; when you sing you begin with Do-Re-Mi.  The first three notes just happen to be Do-Re-Mi. Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti…..oh let’s see if we can’t make it a little bit easier…”  (Yeah, I’m a Sound of Music dork.)  We’re used to that…starting at the beginning, learning our A-B-C’s before we jump headlong into reading Tolstoy or something.  But, the writer of the Gospel According to Mark seemed to just sort of want to get this show on the road.  We’ve become so accustomed to the beauty and poetry of the nativity that somehow that becomes the season for us.  But here…”The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”  That’s it.  That’s all you get.  No announcement of Jesus’ birth, no birth story, no stable, no inn, no manger, no Mary and Joseph and the babe, no shepherds, no magi.  Just that.  It’s sort of like the Gospel writer is saying “refer to the previous volumes”.  But, of course, most Biblical scholars will tell you that there WERE no previous volumes of the Gospel but that this one was the first.  So, what is that beginning?

 

Then it goes on:  As it is written….Essentially, the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is everything that came before–all the prophets, all the judges, all the Wisdom, all the kings, Elijah, Moses, Ruth, Jacob, Abraham, Sarai, all the exiles returning home, all the burning bushes and parting waters, all the covenants, all those generations upon generations of people who wandered in the wilderness.  And now…now appearing in the wilderness is this wild, somewhat unkempt, bear of a man who clothes himself in camel’s hair and eats what appears to be whatever crosses his path in the brush.  There were certainly those with “proper” upbringing and “acceptable” expression of their religious beliefs that probably would have been a bit embarrassed by the display.  I mean, maybe it would have gone down easier if it had been someone a tad bit more “traditional”.  (But then, really, was Jesus all that status quo?)  And yet, I’m fascinated with this character of John the Baptist.  He knew who he was.  He knew his place.  He was called to prepare the way.  He was called to BE the voice crying out in the wilderness.  He was called to prepare the way of the Lord.

 

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  Here we are, in the wilderness of our lives, wandering a little aimlessly at times, trying our best to connect to God, to feel God’s Presence in our lives.  And yet, we know that God did not plunk down in the middle of the bustling city of Jerusalem.  God did not come in the way that was planned or imagined.  The Son of God emerged into the wilderness that was already there, already so full of God that the very earth shook.  The truth is, God had been there all along.  The good news of Jesus Christ was always beginning.  The same is true for us today.  What we are living is not some sort of prelude of a life to come; it is the very beginning of the story.  Maybe that’s our shortcoming.  Maybe we live lives limited by the chapters surrounding us.  But God…God came and comes over and over and over again, beginning, recreating, starting us over.  Advent is the season of beginnings–the beginning of the church year, the beginning of us, the beginning of what comes next.  Advent is not a preface to the high holy day on which we celebrate the Savior’s birth.  Advent reminds us that we, even now, are the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”  The truth is, the story ALWAYS is at the beginning!

 

When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: Either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly. (Edward Teller)

 

FOR TODAY:  How are you called to prepare the way for Christ?  How are you called to begin again?

 

 

Grace and Peace,

Shelli