This Advent season I’m writing reflections on the lectionary Gospel readings forLight Reflections and reposting them here. Please feel free to borrow and steal anything from these that might be helpful in your own Advent sermon,teaching, etc., work.
39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be* a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’
46 And Mary* said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
48 for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
Last week I wrote that the terrifying image of Jesus with a winnowing fork is a far cry from the babe in the manger who we anticipate this time of year. This week we are reminded that these two images are not so far apart at all! Whether it’s Jesus at the end of time or Jesus entering into time, the Good News is consistent – his arrival will raise those whom our world sees as lowly and it will humble those we imagine to be mighty.
In the first few weeks of Advent, we’ve mostly pictured Christ’s arrival coming from somewhere distant Continue reading
Posted in christology, divinity, theological anthropology
Tagged advent, christmas, divinity, Elizabeth, fruit of your womb, Gestating Jesus, gratitude, humility, incarnation, justice, Luke 1:39-55, Magnificat, Mary, pregnancy
Before I left for the Camino, I purchased a livingsocial deal for an overnight yoga retreat a couple of hours from my house. I wasn’t able to use it before it expired, but the man who runs the centre was kind enough to let me book my time there for after my return. This was only the beginning of the kindness I experienced in this place.
On Friday afternoon, I thought I had budgeted well for a timely arrival – I did not, however, budget time for getting lost, nearly running out of gas, a chiropractor appointment to treat a herniated disc on the way out of town running waaaaay over time, and a nightmarish amount of Friday afternoon Toronto traffic. What was supposed to be 2 hours in the car turned into 4 hours, and by the time I arrived I was in quite a state.
It’s one thing to mess up my own plans through failures of planning, but I just hate messing up other people’s plans. Continue reading
I’ve long defended praise and worship music to friends who claim it is too simple theologically. “It’s not about the theology,” I’ve argued, “so much as it’s about a meditative practice.” The reason I used to love P&W, and in surprising moments nowadays, still do (albeit with a touch of nostalgia, an emotion that never sits right with me), is its chant-like quality. There’s the possibility of losing myself in the repetition, and opening my eyes surprised to find out I’ve been swimming in the deep waters of the Divine. But in recent years, I’ve found this depth harder and harder to plum. Even so, it hasn’t been the simplicity that has bothered me, and I’ve struggled to figure out what it is that I fail to connect with.
I visited a church a few weeks ago, heavy on P&W – and all of a sudden it struck me: I can’t handle all those capital letters projected onto the screen: Continue reading
Last week I wrote about how faith crises can lead to identity crises – if my life is organized by my faith, a loss of faith tends to result in a loss of order to my world, a loss of understanding about who I am within that order. But there have also been moments in the midst of that crisis when I have experienced the surprise of grace, where I have experienced a fresh perspective on God that has come, it seems, as a pure gift from God. This week I want to share a story about that happened in the midst of teaching.
I teach theology – this is a vocation so deeply connected to my faith, that it’s difficult to picture it from a place of weak faith. How can I teach my students to preach the gospel when I’m not all that sure of the gospel myself? How can I teach my students about God’s love when I’m not all that sure God loves me… Continue reading
Posted in divinity, eschatology
Tagged anamnesis, belief, contemplation, divinity, doubt, eschatology, faith, friendship, graced teaching, love, memory, prayer
I shared last week about how writing a dissertation chapter about the forgetfulness of God started to feel like I was slowly killing God…not by crucifixion, as an orthodox view might have it, but by the slow deterioration of dementia and aged decline.
In a sense, I was trying to frame the ways in which our post-Christian culture tends to view God – as diminished, ineffectual and humiliated. Initially, with the project, I was wondering: if we think carefully about how our culture views God, perhaps we can think more honestly about how we might embody God’s grace and love within that culture…particularly for those people who are marginalized because they are seen to embody similar characteristics to those I was exploring in God. But the writing process didn’t result in such a joyful faith-based stance. Instead, as I felt the death of God, I realized I was also participating in a death to self. Continue reading
Posted in christology, divinity, theological anthropology, Uncategorized
Tagged death, death of God, desire, divinity, Friedrich Nietzsche, grace, humility, memory, The Madman
I ended up erasing the final chapter of my dissertation and replacing it with another. The one I initially intended was simply too much of a mess, and too risky to do well with the limited time (and, more importantly, limited skill) I possessed in that moment.
In a nutshell, the constructive theological moments in my dissertation were all inspired by conversations between my own academic theological ways of speaking and the everyday theological ways of speaking articulated by people in my church (this conversational process was more formalized through certain forms of academic methods, but I won’t bore you with that here). The final chapter was inspired by a conversation about God’s eternal nature in one of the Sunday night theology classes I taught at the church.
One of the women in the class said that some time she spent with a friend who had Alzheimer’s Disease had helped her to understand God’s eternity Continue reading
Posted in divinity, theological anthropology, Uncategorized
Tagged anamnesis, culture, divinity, faith, humility, kingdom of god, love, memory, post-Christian
I mentioned in a previous post that I have been reading Wendy Farley’s, Gathering Those Driven Away: A Theology of Incarnation. The book is beautiful, full of gems that stimulate the imagination to theological pondering. In one section that particularly gripped my thoughts, she writes of the Christian propensity to hold our beliefs too tightly by the presumed (but erroneous) power and authority of our own knowledge. It is hubris, she argues, and I would agree, to think that we can know anything about God – the deep, profound mystery of Divinity – with any semblance of certainty. Walking by faith encompasses walking by doubt, I interpret her as saying. But she frames this relationship in a much more compelling way than I have previously heard articulated: “Instead of reifying any authority,” she notes, “we might explore faith as our capacity to dwell in the breach between our ignorance and our desire” (42).
I loved this image: faith dwelling in the breach between ignorance and desire. Continue reading