The Promised Nearness

Mark 1:14-20 – The 3rd Sunday after Epiphany – for January 25, 2015

“Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom. Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!” (Mark 1:15)

I did not answer the nurse’s question.

She shared more about God’s judgment.

I listened.

She shared more about God’s judgment.

I then responded to the most neutral of the hospice nurse’s comments—the vintage trope that God’s ways were mysterious—with an equally banal affirmation that each person was different. She nodded like we were fellow conspirators.

She returned to her work; I returned to mine.

Such a coward I was. Wasn’t I?

Though busy with making notes from a hospice meeting, and facing a list of names to call for my work in the ministry of bereavement, earlier that morning I’d read the Gospel of Mark’s declaration by Jesus: “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom. Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!”

What did the Jesus of Mark’s gospel mean by the nearness of “God’s Kingdom?”

Is now the time of change? And what change will come to your—or my—hearts and lives? Continue reading →

In You I Find Happiness

Mark 4:1-11 – Baptism of the Lord, First Sunday after Epiphany – for January 11, 2015

“John was in the wilderness calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts . . .” (Mark 1:4)

With a wild heart, a child scampers from puddle to puddle . . .
With a wild heart, a child scampers from puddle to puddle . . .

In the wilderness, clouds bunch on the horizon like gray fists. Within moments a bright day becomes gloomy. Darkness for day, wind rustling trees, temperature plunging, and then . . .

The first rain falls and creation begins again.

Along the wild coast, fog smothers a desolate beach, a moist wall of white. Swirling and still, it blurs the land and sea, the seen and imagined. Flecks of moisture cling to skin, and then . . .

A shard of sun turns drops of water into diamonds.

With a wild heart, a child scampers from puddle to puddle, a parent’s warning to stay dry long forgotten. A splash here; a splash there. There’s a leap from one miniature lake to another. Failure is so much fun as the pants legs are soaked to the knee, and then . . .

There’s a yelp of joy and a dance of delight.

Into the wild yard, you venture, lured by ancient fears and fascination. Though it’s safer to stay where there’s central heat and insulated walls, why not explore the back yard during the worst of the storm? Rain pours, leaves shiver, the garden floods, the lawn transforms into momentary swamp, and you think . . .

Why did I ever think I was in control? Continue reading →

Advent 1: A Dark November Night

Mark 13:24-37First Sunday of Advent – For Sunday, November 30, 2014

“Watch out! Stay alert! You don’t know when the time is coming.” (Mark 13:33)

advent2-300x225Watch out! Stay alert! You don’t know when the time is coming.

The first scriptures of Advent are unsettling. I don’t like them. I’d prefer to hurry to the next week’s readings, to arrive in Bethlehem as quickly as possible. Joseph and Mary and the shepherds and the magi and the angels are familiar. They are safe. After all, I put their ceramic figurines on my mantel.

The scripture that shouts at me to Watch out! never feels safe. I dread the questions these fierce apocalyptic verses cause me to ask.

*      *      *

Will I ever be healed?

I weary of waiting to be healed. First, I’m talking about my body. Once, as a youth, I felt immortal. I did. Embarrassing confession: in my twenties and thirties, I didn’t think I’d age like others. Even after a wrenching broken leg, even after a first and second knee surgery by my late forties, I thought I’d be . . . different. I’d never be the one with the cane or walker or the one whose doctor warned you have to count calories or reduce cholesterol. I would forever disdain the elevator and bound up the steps.

But aging gets the last laugh. Judgment wears clever disguises. Continue reading →