Lent 2: Witnessing God’s Face

Psalm 27The Second Sunday of Lent* – for Sunday, February 21, 2016

“Come my heart says, seek God’s face . . .” (Psalm 27:8)

But another year vanishes without a trip into the glorious “range of light.”
But another year vanishes without a trip into the glorious “range of light.”

How can I be one person and yet hear so many conflicting voices?

After a six-pack of decades on earth, my body cackles at me. I hear it at night before bed, when I wearily glance at the mirror. My body mutters about the wrinkles on my skin. There are snide statements about the extra weight around the middle I hoped to shed years ago, but the fat remains like barnacles attached to a creaky boat. I’ve had gray, thinning hair for so long, pictures of me with a curly mane of brown locks seem unfamiliar . . . a guy once known but now forgotten.

I turn the lights off; a last cackle echoes in the darkness.

Memories murmur and taunt me. The other day, though there have been myriad days like this, I spied the distant snow-capped ridges of the Sierra Nevada mountains between the neighborhood trees. For years, summer and fall after summer and fall, I hiked those mountains, shouldering a pack and gulping alpine air. But another year vanishes without a trip into the glorious “range of light.” All I have are memories. And those memories, fractured like the granite I miss, bemoan my flatlander commitments. Once you were young, the memories tease. Once your head turned toward wild dreams and not dreary obligations, the memories lament.

Have I sojourned into the wild for the last time, without a final chance to bid farewell to the high holy places I once visited? Continue reading →

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Lent 1: God’s Protection

Psalm 91The First Sunday of Lent* – for Sunday, February 14, 2016

“. . . to protect you wherever you go . . .” (Psalm 91:11)

Syrian refugeesFrightened refugees spread across the world from the hell on earth known as Syria. Soldiers tramp through the hardscrabble, isolated villages of Afghanistan, armed to kill—and perhaps to be killed—7,500 miles from home. Citizens in Flint, Michigan are informed their water is contaminated with lead, but only long after bathing in it, brushing teeth with it, tending a garden using it, and, from infant to elderly, swallowing it. A husband and wife in San Bernardino (who look so blandly normal in the before pictures) walk into a building with legal guns and store-bought bullets. Another child, maybe six years old, maybe with a goofy grin that will break even the sternest of hearts, with an illness that is relentless and opportunistic, enters the care of the hospice where I work and dies ten days later.

Who will protect the innocent when bullets fly, when cancer spreads? Don’t the most fragile and gentle deserve protection?

Who will protect the guilty, even as they scheme to bully or steal or kill? Don’t even the worst of us, raised on hate or seduced by fear, deserve a second or third or fourth chance to lead hopeful lives? Continue reading →

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

I Am A Crooked Disciple

Luke 9:28-43 – Transfiguration Sunday – for Sunday, February 7, 2016

(“The next day, when Jesus, Peter, John, and James had come down from the mountain, a large crowd met Jesus.”)

Transfiguration of Jesus - Raphael
Transfiguration of Jesus – Raphael

Whenever preaching, teaching, or simply pondering the stretch of Luke’s Gospel that highlighted Jesus’ transfiguration, I’ve focused most of my efforts “up on a mountain.”

But today, I’m more fascinated with what happened after “Jesus, Peter, John, and James had come down from the mountain.”

My fascination is also fed by the leftover learning from the singular course in ancient Greek that I survived during seminary.

In the ninth chapter of Luke (along with Mark 9:2-8 and Matthew 17:1-8), the Gospel reader “views” Jesus’ sublime transfiguration on a mountain. This was witnessed by the inner circle of disciples, was likely a parallel (literally, metaphorically, or both) to Moses’ mountaintop moment with the Holy in Exodus 34:29-35, and included God’s blessing on Jesus’ ministry.

But enough about that life-altering and transcendent event!

Afterwards, Jesus hiked down the mountain, back into the mess and stress of humanity. While Peter, James, and John’s souls were still awhirl from the transfiguration (and their soles probably ached from pounding along a rocky trail), a stranger buttonholed Jesus. Continue reading →

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather