The Knife’s Edge of Love

Luke 2:22-40The First Sunday of Christmas – for December 28, 2014

“When the time came for their ritual cleansing, in a accordance with the Law from Moses, they brought Jesus up to the Jerusalem…” (Luke 2:22)

simeon-with-the-infant-jesus.jpg!Blog“Wait here for a moment,” Joseph said, “I forgot to, need to . . .”

He didn’t finish his sentence. Not to her. With a word or glance, she might stop him by shaming his anger or calming his fears.

Mary nodded, hugging Jesus closer to her chest.

Joseph rearranged the blanket around the infant’s face. His hands—with their map of scars, grit he could never wash out, and the stump where he lost his left little finger while a carpenter’s apprentice—gently stroked Jesus’ smooth cheeks. He also caressed his wife’s face. His wife and their newborn were so beautiful, each a gift that Joseph didn’t deserve. And yet here they were, together. Wasn’t he all that stood between the worst of the world and their dreams for the child? Well, maybe he and God would protect this miracle family, but the Almighty had secretive ways, and terrible silences.

Mary dutifully waited on the temple’s expansive courtyard. Around her, as with most days, construction continued on Herod’s pet projects. The temple, its glistening, sculpted stone reaching toward heaven, had been finished in less than two years a generation ago. But the open areas around the towering edifice were being expanded so merchants, beggars, and pilgrims had more room to bargain with or boast to each other. There were stairways everywhere. How could they all lead to different streets into the city? Jerusalem made Nazareth seem puny.

Joseph entered the temple, eyes again adjusting to the dim inner light, the flickering oil lamps and shards of bright sunlight. As before, the stench of sweat from weary humans, incense from mysterious rituals, and endless burnt offerings irritated his nostrils. To his left, a Levite chanted the Psalms. To his right, a barefoot, beardless man, taller and much younger than Joseph, stood alone. Two fat turtledoves dangled from his hand, the birds fluttering and fussing, unaware of their impending doom. Maybe the barefoot man-child was confused about what to do next, just like Joseph had been a short while before. At another time, Joseph might have assisted him.

But Joseph’s plans urged him forward, and his family waited where there was a constant crowd of pickpockets and whores. Continue reading →

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Advent 4 – Gabriel Shuffles In

Luke 1:26-38The 4th Sunday of Advent – for December 21, 2014

“When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee.” (Luke 1:26)

She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. “The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary, God is honoring you.”

“Mary,” in the sheltering darkness of the room, is alone but doesn’t feel lonely. She leans forward, alert.

Why does this moment feel different?

“Gabriel” slips unnoticed into the building, as hesitant as he is hopeful. With curious eyes, he scans the unfamiliar surroundings.

Is this the moment that will make a difference?

*       *       *

With apologies to It's A Wonderful Life, I think Wim Wenders' Wings Of Desire is the best movie about angels...
With apologies to It’s A Wonderful Life, I think Wim Wenders’ Wings Of Desire* is the best movie about angels…

In several of the churches I served, I asked a young woman—maybe fourteen or fifteen years old—to read Luke’s familiar verses where Mary was informed about her impending pregnancy. I wanted a reminder that the first Christmas story hinged on the voiceless. In the so-called Bible times, all women were considered property; Mary’s identity would always be based on which him she married. She was merely some man’s future wife from a ho-hum village in a meaningless region that barely appeared as a dot on the sprawling map of the empire. Like a million other female nobodies, Mary lived in an era when the powerful trampled the weak, and the haughty rich acquired more treasure while the humiliated poor spiraled deeper into poverty. (Though it’s always been and still is this way.) Continue reading →

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On Being Seen

Luke 24:13-35 – The 3rd Sunday of Easter – for Sunday, May 4, 2014

“Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him…” (Luke 24:31)

I stumbled through seminary in the midst of the 20th century, probably passing subjects like Ancient Greek and Old Testament Theology because of a professor’s pity on those of us brave enough or naïve enough (or both) to consider ministry. In seminary, I often (desperately) flipped through a book’s pages until discovering a quote to satisfy the low bar of my needs for a paper on the beatitudes or Paul’s notion of justification by faith. Alas, the 21st century of googling has elevated me into the depths of being a slacker. I’m a copy-and-paste dude, a cherry-pick-the-Bible-verse guy and a search-for-the-selective-facts fella that quickly (desperately) seeks something—anything, please—to bolster and boost my opinion.the-road-to-emmaus-daniel-bonnell

Have I lowered your opinion of me enough?

Even so, please join me on the road to Emmaus.

You know Emmaus, don’t you?

Of course you do. I assume many my blog’s treasured readers are primarily churchy, faithy and Christiany ministers. And those equally treasured readers that don’t professionally marry, bury and baptize are at least interested in the Bible. In religion. In God. In Jesus.

So I’m preaching to the proverbial choir when I ask if you know Emmaus. Luke’s author said the village was seven miles from Jerusalem, or—to hew closer to the ancient languages I (tried to) study in seminary—Emmaus was 60 or so stadia from the City of David. In Greek measurements, a stadion is 600 feet. 60 stadia would be equivalent to 6.8 miles and modern Biblical translations round that up to seven miles.

How long does it take you to walk seven miles? Continue reading →

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