Praying with Our Feet: A Service of Lament and Sending

The evening before the March for Our Lives, Sanctuary gathered to ground ourselves in prayer as we engaged in protest, demonstration, and civic action to work toward less gun violence in our country. Linked is an outline of that service, including Scripture, liturgical prayers, and a blessing.

As we again mourn the school shooting in Texas today, as well as many incidents of gun violence since this service, we wanted to share this resource as a way to find grounding for the necessary work of challenging and changing our laws and culture surrounding guns.

Below is our lament from that service, which we invite you to pray with us. For the full service PDF, click here.

 

Litany of Lament

For all the lives touched and torn by violence,

Tonight we mourn.

For the fascination with guns and weapons that claim the lives of the undefended and vulnerable,

Tonight we mourn.

For the media that glorifies violence and trivializes human life,

Tonight we mourn.

For choosing individual rights over peace in our communities,

Tonight we mourn.

For the teachers and students experiencing trauma and living in fear,

Tonight we mourn.

 

Merciful God, who does not raise up the sword except to break the chains that bind us, draw near to us in our mourning and grant us wisdom, courage, and strength to march onward in our grief.

 

God of Remembrance,

Let us not forget those who have died.

God of the prophets,

Guide us to speak truth to the powerful.

God of deliverance,

Release us from the grip of violence and guns.

God of justice,

Empower us to change this broken world.

God of comfort,

Help us to create spaces of sanctuary and healing.

God of shalom,

Teach us to be instruments of your peace.

 

Amen.

Sunday Note: Where Is There Life?

Scripture

1 John 5:9-13
We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which God has given about God's Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made God out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about God's Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in God's Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.


Sunday Note: Where is there Life?

There is a story in the Gospel of John about a woman, who encounters Jesus at a well (John 4:1-26). This woman was Samaritan-- a religious and ethnic group, closely related to the Palestinian Jews, but despised for both religious and political reasons tracing back hundreds of years prior to when Jesus walked up to the town's well. In the heat of the day, this woman went to draw water, a purposeful decision to avoid the morning when most other women went to draw water. 

What follows in John's Gospel is the longest conversation Jesus has with anyone in the New Testament. Jesus-- a Jewish man-- speaks to this Samaritan woman. A Samaritan. And a woman. And, as we quickly find out, a Samaritan woman, who has had five husbands and now lives with a man, who is not her husband. We'll come back to that. 

Jesus instigates this conversation by asking for water. And soon he offers the woman "living water." Water, of which he says, "whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life." And when the woman asks for this water, Jesus' response is like a punch to the gut:
“Go, call your husband and come back.”

There has been much ink split over what sins this woman must have committed to be in the "no husband" circumstance she is in. She has had five husbands, and the man she is currently living with is not her husband. There is, though, no plausible explanation for a first-century Palestinian woman to be getting married five times because she's just a harlot. Likely, this woman was the one sinned against-- discarded again and again-- with little to no recourse.

That was her place of deepest wounding. That was her place of deepest shame. That was the pain and the shame that brought her to that well alone in the heat of the noonday sun. As Nadia Bolz-Weber points out:

When she says Give me this water so that I may not thirst he then goes straight for her wound. She says give me this living water and he asks about her husband.
He wasn’t avoiding the subject – he was avoiding the BS...
The Living water offered by Jesus Christ finds your lowest point. It flows to your original wound.


(You can read the full sermon here)

---

John talks a lot about Jesus bringing, embodying, and offering life. Eternal life. Not life that starts in some disembodied ether-world after death, but literally life "from age to age", life that is "unending." Life that beginning here and now is abundant and will not end. 

John's community-- likely the authors of 1 John after his death-- were shaped deeply by this. The letters of John speak again and again about life. In fact, the very start of 1 John explains why they are writing: To "make their joy complete" by telling others about the Word of life, who was made manifest. They write to experience together eternal life-- beginning here and now-- in Jesus.

Our text today comes from the end of this letter, and the purpose is made clear again: And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in God's Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

Another way to translate this: I write these things to you who trust in the Son of God so that you may experience the unending life that you have.

---

How do can we experience the unending life that we have? What does this trust in Jesus look like?

The woman at the well may ask: What is your greatest wound? What is your greatest shame? What bs are you covering up with short-term fixes?

The unending life starts there. Because to experience unending life, means letting go of temporary life--temporary fixes, temporary hiddenness, temporary happiness to trust God's love shown to us in Jesus. To trust God's way of life shown to us in Jesus.

Too often followers of Jesus read of living water and abundant life and think it means we need to believe harder, to buck up, to bootstrap our way to joy, or just to hid our pain and woundedness under false smiles. That is the junk Jesus came to save us from.

Life begins in the healing of our wounds. Eternal, unending life is experienced only when we drop the facade, and trust in the love and goodness of God for us, as we are.

Where there is trust in our belovedness; where there is authenticity; where there is Jesus-- God's love in flesh and blood-- there is unending, abundant, eternal life. 


Amen.

Sunday Note: Who Belongs? Pt. 2

Scripture

Acts 10:44-48 & John 15:9-17

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles.For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Then Peter said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

---

 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other."



Note: Who Belongs? Pt. 2


One of the hardest questions for the church to answer-- from the earliest gatherings in the first century up until today-- is: Who belongs with us? It is the question of all movements, all nations, all tribes, all families, all social and political and meaning-making groups: Who is in and who is out? At it's heart, the question is one of group identity. Who are we?

This question of belonging was at the forefront of the Jesus movement in the first century. Before there were statements of faith, New Testament Scriptures, or ordained church officials, the apostles of Jesus had little but story, prayer, and consensus to determine these big questions of identity and belonging that would set the course of Christianity.

Last week, the lectionary text in Acts told the story of a Philip and an Ethiopian man, who was a eunuch. This unnamed man was an outsider according to the Torah, but would be welcomed into the fold as a child of God, according to Isaiah. And Philip choose on behalf of the Jesus movement that Isaiah's prophecy would be fulfilled, and the circle was opened to eunuchs in the moment. Philip continued by opening the circle of belonging to a Samaritan and a sorcerer. Then the apostles in Jerusalem open the circle to Saul, a former persecutor of Jesus-followers. And in our text today, we reach the climax of belonging: Do Gentiles-- not just wayward Jews or one guy on a road-- but Gentiles as an excluded group, belong? Are they in or out?

The answer comes, not from arguing finer points of theology and Scripture nor from a vision of the future Christian movement, but rather from the recognition that God had already encircled them. There was no argument to be made: God had already included Gentiles. They already belonged. The Spirit of God already choose to dwell in them.

Just as God had already loved, accepted, and acted in the lives of Saul and the Samaritans and Simon and the Ethiopian man...so God already loved, accepted, and acted in the Gentiles-- those formerly defined by their outsider status.

As Peter would later say to the leaders in Jerusalem:  If God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?

Jews, Gentiles, Samaritans, Roman soldiers, tax collectors, prostitutes, Pharisees, zealots, women, children, eunuchs, those in Judea, and those in the far corners of the earth-- ALL BELONG. People of color, white people, LGBTQIA identifying persons, blue collar workers, academics, the poor, even the wealthy, developers, community organizers, Americans,, Afghans, Australians, and ALL nations...ALL BELONG.

The question arises: If all these people who we thought were out are actually in-- Who are we? What is our identity? If everyone belongs, does belonging even matter?

And here we turn to the words of Jesus in John 15:
Remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in God's love. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you...I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit...This is my command: Love each other.

Jesus loves us all. Jesus choose us all. We belong to God through Jesus. Our identity is those who are loved by Jesus and love others as Jesus has loved us.

This way of belonging that Jesus teaches requires a shift in our paradigm. There is no "in" or "out." There is, instead, proximity to love. Remain in love, and you will love all those who belong to Jesus (read: everyone), and that love will bear fruit in this world that will last. Stray from love, and you will not love all those who belong to Jesus, and you will not bear lasting fruit.

So often, those who belong in God's love, stray, and find meaning and belonging in fear, hate, worry, pride, or envy. You may find yourself there now. Or feel the frustration of seeing others far beyond the center of love, out in the field of fear. 

We are invited and called to come back to God's love. To remain in the love that has been tangibly shown in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. God's love that is defined by the actions of Jesus. That is our truest identity-- as Christians and as humans.

All belong to God in Jesus Christ. This does not water down belonging or identity-- it is an invitation to our truest identity; it is an invitation to remain in God's love and invite others closer to love. It is a way of being in the world that looks with compassion and love on others, rather than building up walls to keep them out.

We belong. So may we remain in God's love, bearing fruit that will last, and loving one another in the way of Jesus that all people may know that they, too, belong to God and to us.

Sunday Note: April 29, 2018

Text for Today

Acts 8:26-40

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

“How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
    and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
    Who can speak of his descendants?
    For his life was taken from the earth.”

The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.


 


Sunday Note: Who Belongs?

The book of Deuteronomy in the Hebrew Bible contains a section that English translation, the New International Version, places under the heading:Exclusion from the Assembly. Eight verses of exclusions follow-- these are the people who do not belong to the people of God. These are the people who are not us. The first of these exclusions reads, "No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the Lord" (Dt 23:1). The text continues, naming those born of a forbidden marriage down to the tenth generation, Ammonites, Moabites, descendants of those foreign enemies, descendants to the third generation of those born to OK foreigners.

The Bible has many, many threads of theology in it's vast recordings and varied genres of writing. It is the sacred text of humans encountering the Divine, and wrestling to put into words the implications of Divine encounter. Inspired is a beautiful word for the work of the Spirit and human creation of a text that draws us into the deepest questions of existence, even through Scripture that can be translated:  He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 23:1 in the King James Version of the Bible...seriously)

Two of the threads that compete throughout the Scriptures are of Exclusion-- purity, holiness, chosen-ness-- and Belonging-- a God of all tribes and nations, forgiveness, blessing. When read flatly, meaning all parts of the Bible having equal weight and equally impacting our understanding of God and creation, the Bible is in an impossible argument with itself. Just as Deuteronomy says that those who have been made eunuchs cannot enter the assembly of God-- or more plainly, eunuchs are not a part of God's people, our story today shows Philip baptizing a eunuch-- the sign and seal of belonging to God and to God's people.

This is not the only instance. Acts 8-11 seems to be written as a direct challenge to exclusion itself. 

Samaritans? Belong.
Sorcerers? Belong.
Eunuchs? Belong.

The man Philip encounters along the road was reading from Isaiah 53. Philip explains to him the ways this ancient text was embodied by Jesus. If they read on just three more chapters, they would have come across this,

Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the Lord say,
"The Lord will surely exclude me from God's people."
And let not the eunuch complain,
"I am only a dry tree."
For this is what the Lord says:
"To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, 
who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant--
to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name
better than sons and daughters
;
I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off.
And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to serve God...
I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer."


Just as the words of Isaiah 53 would be embodied by Jesus and the story told by Philip, so too would the words of Isaiah 56 be embodied by this Ethiopian eunuch and the story continued to be told by us today. 

The story of Divine encounter, of the people of God wrestling to put into words the implication of this encounter, is not flat. It is dynamic; it requires repentance-- rethinking everything in light of new revelation; it has been embodied for us to more fully know. And in Jesus, the Word made flesh, and in the Body of Christ, the people of God, we see the embodiment of expanding belonging. Deuteronomy does not have the last word.

So, dear reader, know that whatever your perceived impurities, whatever your doubts, whatever your background, whatever your family story, whatever your skin color, whatever your sexual orientation, whatever your gender expression, whatever your language, whatever your past failures, whatever your questions, whatever your limitations...

You belong to God. You belong to God's people. You belong.

Sunday Note: April 22, 2018

Text for Today

Psalm 23 & John 10:11-18

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
God makes me lie down in green pastures,
God leads me beside quiet waters,
God refreshes my soul.
The Lord guides me along the right paths
    for God's name's sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

--

“The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full. 

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”


 


Valleys, Wolves, & Poetry

Jesus speaks of being the "good shepherd" to his disciples in our Gospel reading today. Jesus uses this metaphor to help his disciples understand his relationship to them and their relationship to others-- specifically the religious leaders and false messiahs of their time. Jesus uses this metaphor of being a good shepherd--whose voice the sheep recognize, who guards the sheep from those who would do them harm, who challenges the wolf, rather than running away, who would even risk his life for the sheep-- past it's breaking point.

What shepherd-flock pairing does these things:

"I have come that they may have life and have it to the full..."
"I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen..."
"I lay down my life--only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own accord."

We are clearly not talking about sheep and shepherds and pens and gates anymore. 

And yet, we all know what it is-- from experience or close proximity-- to be found in the darkest valley, as the Psalmist writes. Or to be confronted by a wolf or a thief or abandoned by a hired hand. We know what it is to be lost and betrayed and disillusioned and afraid.

And it is in those moments that we most need poetry, metaphor, a God who is bigger than our language and understanding can contain.

The most turbulent times give birth to the most creative, poignant, and beautiful art. The most painful experiences lead people of faith back to ancient poetry and liturgy. 

During this Easter season, we are spending several weeks at our House Gatherings talking about Joy. John 10:10 is about this joy: That we may have life, and have it to the full. That is what Christ came to bring and guard and ultimately lay down his own life for. This joy that fully humanizes us-- causes us to be fully who we are as human beings created in God's image.

Even as Christ promises this fullness of life, he speaks of thieves and wolves. In the Psalm, even as the psalmist experiences the joy of abundance, of beauty, of refreshment, of direction, so too there is the darkest valley, there is evil, there are enemies.

Joy anchors us to our beloved identity as children of God. Joy anchors us to full life. And poetry, art, metaphor, story anchor us to joy.

This week may we dwell, not only on the content of Scripture, but also the form. May we follow the way of Jesus and the Psalmist by creating and seeking art that can hold our full experience-- joy, pain, hope, abundance, fear, betrayal-- and point us to the joy of a God who is found more readily in a poem than a doctrine. 

The Fourth Reading of Christmas

[Confused what this is? See our introductory post here and check out the first three readings]

John 1:1-1-5, 10-14

The Word Made Flesh

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. 

 

The Fourth Meditation

Some Christian theologians speak of “two incarnations.” The first was God’s word in Genesis becoming our creation. God’s word took on the flesh of God’s creation and humanity, who bear the particular image of God. The second incarnation was the birth of Jesus, the promised Messiah, who was fully human and fully God—The Word of God, the Divine logic, the Divine Way of God, the second person of the Trinity, whom we call the “Son,” became flesh and lived among us. The birth of Jesus confirmed the cosmic reality of what God had been doing all along. Spirit and matter have always been one. God has always been with humanity. But we separated. We separated ourselves from God. We separated matter from spirit. God re-membered all of creation to all of Godself in and through Christ.

As the brightest moment of this Christmas Day approaches, may we see this light of the cosmic Christ—the Word made flesh that holds all things together and is reconciling all things to God. What is true in us, is true in the creation, is true in community, is true in all humanity. God has come and is with us. May we recognize the light that cannot be overcome by darkness. And continue in hope for when that light will vanquish all darkness.

 

When have you moved from hope to knowing? When have you experienced God’s presence in all things?

Dwell in the way you are connected to all of God’s creation. Dwell in the way you are connected to God—the God who in Christ by the power of the Spirit in within you and outside of you, holding you and all things together, reconciling you and all things to Godself.

The Third Reading of Christmas

[Confused what this is? See our introductory post here and check out the first two readings]

Luke 2:15-20

Shepherds Travel to Bethlehem

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

 

The Third Meditation

We continue with the shepherds as dawn breaks on Christmas Day (or on the third day after the winter solstice, as we can begin to perceive the day’s light lengthening). The promise the shepherds received in the depths of night, now they go and see at dawn. Hope moves to knowing, as darkness breaks way to light. The shepherds endured their night travel and grace came at the dawn—the promise fulfilled. And they, too, play their part in the grander story. They tell of the promise they received in the night, to the woman who had born her own labor pain in the darkness. The Christ is born out of the darkness, and this grace is not only hoped for, but received, experienced, and known. 

 

Have you experienced a promise of grace in shame or despair fulfilled?

Allow yourself to open to the dawning of light. Move from darkness and glimmers of hope to the joy of knowing. Be in the presence of the Christ, the promised Savior, God-with-us, here with you right now.

The Second Christmas Reading

[Confused what this is? See our introductory post here and first reading here]

Luke 2:8-14

Visitation of Angels to the Shepherds

8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

 

Second Meditation

In the first century, shepherds were not considered respectable people. In our day, they would likely be labelled “thugs.” They had been removed from polite society to live nomadically and attend to sheep, away from the community. And they smelled like their animals. The smell of the sheep was a mark of shame.

This is where and to whom God’s messengers announce the birth of the Savior, the Messiah, and the Lord. This is where and to whom God gives the greatest revelation in human history. It is in the depths of a winter night, outside of respectable society, to shamed outcasts that God’s messages announce the Good News for the first time. It is to shepherds that this news is entrusted. They are the first to be invited to encounter God-in-flesh, Jesus Christ.

It is in the depths of darkness, outside of respectability, in the midst of shame that the Word of God’s grace is given and received. The promise of hope is heard in the night.

 

What word of grace or hope have you received in your darkness? In your shame? Dwell in the unfulfilled promise, the hope of grace in the midst of winter’s night within you.

The First Christmas Reading

[Confused what this is? See our introductory post here]

Matthew 1:1-16

The Genealogy of Jesus

An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, 4 and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of King David.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7 and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, 8 and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9 and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.

First Meditation

Our first reading leads us into the darkness of unknowing. A darkness that, while it is difficult to walk in, leads into a new dawn. Enter the stories of the four women listed in Matthew’s genealogy.

Tamar

Rahab

The wife of Uriah, Bathsheba

Mary

All part of a scandal. All felt the darkness of unknowing. Tamar, widowed two times by Judah’s wicked sons, was left on her own by Judah because of his fear his third son, too, would die if he married her. Tamar had little choice without husband or children in her culture, and was left in a terrible, shameful situation by her father-in-law. So she tricked him. She disguised herself as a temple prostitute, slept with her father-in-law, took his seal and staff as collateral, and became pregnant by him. Judah learned Tamar was pregnant three months later, but did not know it was her who he had slept with. He was enraged that the unmarried widow of his two sons would be pregnant. He called for her to be burnt to death. Tamar, before being executed, show Judah his seal and staff. Judah was ashamed. And Tamar gave birth to twins, one of which, Perez, continued her lineage to Jesus. (Genesis 38)

Scandal. Darkness. The lineage of Jesus Christ.

Rahab, a prostitute in Jericho, a traitor to her people, but savior to the Israelites. (Joshua 2) “The wife of Uriah,” Bathsheba, with whom King David had an affair while her husband was on the battlefield. David, using his power and wealth, slept with Bathsheba and attempted to have her husband killed to cover his tracks by sending him to the front lines. She gave birth to Solomon, heir of the throne. (2 Samuel 11)

Scandal. Darkness. The lineage of Jesus Christ.

And Mary, a young woman engaged to Joseph. A woman, who God called favored. A woman from a nowhere kind of place, poor, yet prepared for God’s Word and receptive to God’s work. She became pregnant through the Spirit’s overshadowing. Pregnant, young, poor, unmarried.

Scandal and darkness. This is the lineage of Jesus Christ.

It is in the darkness and scandal; the strangeness and inexplicable; it is here that Christ longs to be born.

 

When have you been in darkness? When have you experienced unknowing? Can you dwell in that place as the night comes?

Four Readings for Christmas

According to Alexander Shaia--author, spiritual director, psychotherapist, and liturgist--the early Church read four gospel Scriptures that took them from sundown on Christmas Eve to noon on Christmas day. These readings walked early Christians through the journey from unknowing to hope to a deep, experiential knowing. Whether reality or legend, this practice is one that enriches our celebration of the Christmas season. Sanctuary invites you to join us in these readings and meditations.

There are two ways you may choose read these:

First reading- Sundown on Christmas Eve
Second reading- Late night on Christmas Eve
Third reading- Dawn on Christmas
Fourth reading- Noon on Christmas

Or

First reading- day following the winter solstice, December 22nd
Second reading- December 23nd
Third reading- Christmas Eve
Fourth reading- Christmas Day

We will post one reading and meditation each day the 22nd-25th.