Tag Archives: humility

Gestating Jesus

Christmas

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.

Luke 1:39-55
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

Piano, Piano. Suave, Suave.

The dinner table is lively with multi-lingual conversation, but I am mostly slumped in my chair in pain. Day 2 of the Camino, and it’s our first time sharing in the “Pilgrim Meal.” Pilgrim meals in Basque country (the first 1/4 of the Camino Norte) are served around 7:30, about an hour before the restaurant opens for regular dinner service (I believe so the other customers don’t have to smell us). They cost about $10, and have a couple of hearty courses, plus bread, dessert and as much wine as you can drink. They are awesome. But I’m feeling beat. I’ve done something stupid to my right shoulder. And so the scarf I brought with me so I could feel like I had one pretty thing is now wrapped as a sling holding my arm in place so that I don’t wrench my shoulder something worse. Each person who joins us at the table points at my arm with one hand while pouring themselves a mug of wine with the other, and asks me in their own language, what’s wrong? “Oh,” I say in English and begin miming (though even miming hurts), “I’ve pulled my shoulder. I’m trying to keep it still. I’m sure it will get better,” even though I’m panicking inside that it won’t. Continue reading

Good-bye to the God of Capital Letters

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

Accidentally Dying to Self

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

God’s Forgetfulness

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

Fall On Your Knees

There’s a battle in our house every Christmas. The territory is marked thusly (at least from my perspective): my husband wants to listen to CD’s of sad Irish people singing sad carols; I want to hear my Christmas sung by Motown. I guess I just feel that the Gospel should be sung in gospel style! And so, when it comes to Christmas Eve services, I tend to be dubious when a frumpy white lady gets up to sing ‘O Holy Night,’ which has long been my favourite Christmas song.

But tonight’s rendition at my in-laws’ Methodist church was perfect!

As the soloist hit the line, “fall on your knees,” she held it and her voice yearned my whole body toward my kneecaps and I found myself wanting to hit the floor. Continue reading