Advent 2013: The Usual Suspects

oil_lampA few thoughts after posting 2013’s fourth and final Advent reflection . . .

This year, my reading of the familiar—oh so familiar—scriptures inspired me to imagine a few moments in the lives of Advent’s “usual suspects.” As always, I didn’t know exactly what I’d write until each essay was finished. But I was confident Isaiah would make an appearance, initially assumed Mary or Joseph (or both) would be ignored, and had no idea a Pharisee would encounter John the Baptizer. Ah well . . . humans plan, the Holy chuckles.

As the digital dust began to settle, these questions nudged me . . .

  • What caused Isaiah to claim the imagery of turning swords into plowshares?
  • What made John the Baptist’s message compelling, but inadequate, especially in the eyes of a “religious authority?”
  • Wouldn’t self-doubt and confidence accompany Mary’s anticipation of birth? And . . . could Mary have heard Hannah’s song/prayer for inspiration?
  • Why did Joseph, key to the nativity stories, vanish from the verses that followed?

Behind all the questions is a core belief: Christmas is a myth. The facts about Jesus’ birth are sparse and pedestrian. He was born. He had parents and siblings. And from birth to death, Jesus lived under Rome’s brutal, corrupt government. Continue reading →

Is Your Time Different Than Mine?

Isaiah 2:1-5  – First Sunday of Advent – for December 1, 2013

“The word that Isaiah, son Amoz, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem…” (Isaiah 2:1)

sparksThe foolish dreamer.

The blind believer.

I’ve been called worse than those. I’ve heard the insults, jeers and taunts.

How is it some don’t want to be reminded of faith’s hard work? Why do we think things will get better if we do nothing? What makes so many blame neighbors, but never admit their own fears or failings?

I live in a time when people forget history and scoff at the future, when children are bartered and sold, women are abused and abandoned and the only God worshipped by all is gold.

I live in a place where people avoid certain sections of the city and erect huge walls around their own homes, where the foreigner is demeaned, the stranger is viewed with suspicion and those who speak differently are . . . damned as different.

I live when most of the news is about the war just fought and why we won, or the war soon to be started and how we can’t lose, when the news is controlled by the spiteful and powerful and any voice of truth is crushed or forced to bow to the gods of gold.

Is your time different than mine?

*         *         *

Soon after dawn, day after day, we all scurry into the streets. We have survived another night.

We kiss our children as they go to school.

We bake our bread, sell our wares and tend to our business.

“How is the weather?”

“Did you hear so-and-so is getting divorced?”

“I’m betting today is the day I win the lottery.”

Every day I hear the same chatter and patter; everyone talks, but so few say anything. Continue reading →

Learn To Do Good

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20 – The 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for August 11, 2013

“Learn to do good, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow….” (Isaiah 1:17)

Screen-shot-2012-08-09-at-9.21.01-AMI’ll likely grit my teeth in anger whenever someone reads the Bible and then claims they understand God’s intentions.

‘Cuz the Bible says . . .

Slavery is acceptable; though it also invites us to turn the other cheek.

Women are men’s property; however, we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Parents can stone a child if the kid bad-mouths Mom and Pop; and yet, unless we become child-like, we won’t see God’s Kindom.

The 39 books of the so-called Old Testament and the 27 books of the so-called New Testament proclaim hundreds of wonderful tasks to do or attitudes to have for a person of faith, but it’s just as easy to identify hundreds of other Biblical edicts that embarrass, denigrate or shock modern and ancient believers. The Bible can too easily become another way to gouge the believer who doesn’t believe in your way, rather than a guide to understand the many ways to seek a closer relationship with the Holy.

For me, it’s easy—with my head held high and my faithful heart beating strong—to backpedal from any fellow believer too zealously clinging to the Bible’s literal and superior authority. But then I read the opening of Isaiah, and grit my teeth for a far different reason.

Learn to do good, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.

Is this what God desired and desires? Sought and seeks? Hoped and hopes? Continue reading →