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The Way of Love… Receives

Mark 1:4-11, NRSV

Reflections

As we enter the season of Epiphany, new questions arise: Will we allow the light that has broken forth to illuminate the darkest corners of our hearts, our families, and our lives? Can we—will we—follow Jesus as he untwists the mangled metal of our shattered souls … and redeems it? Can we—will we—trust the light or will we hide from it? These are the questions of Epiphany.

— Lisa Sharon Harper

  • Obsession of security is of an earthly empire, not the Kingdom of God
  • Jesus’ baptism (and repentance) is not for Jesus Himself, but in solidarity with us

 

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Dark Winter Hope

Matthew 2:1-12, NRSV

Reflections

Hope is a song in a weary throat.
Give me a song of hope
And a world where I can sing it.
Give me a song of faith
And a people to believe in it.
Give me a song of kindliness
And a country where I can live it.

— Pauli Murray, from Dark Testament verse 8

  • story of “star, strangers, murderous psychopath”
  • like Magis, we look for leaders to cross lines and boundaries to search for God, but also bring gifts and serve

 

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Those Who Dream… Will Not Keep Silent

Luke 2:22-40, NRSV

Reflections

Then perhaps there is a third kind of loss—the loss that comes when you notice the limits of your knowledge of God, when you feel bereft of guidance, when you feel the loss of God’s saving power or of God’s grace. This feeling of loss is really a way of noting, and mourning, God’s hiddenness. This is the loss you name when you ask why God does not answer your prayers. It is the loss entailed when you realize that Jesus is more mysterious and more inscrutable than you had at first understood.

— Lauren F. Winner, Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis

  • Simeon and Anna — spent their whole lives hoping and waiting
  • Simeon learned to listen to God, and Holy Spirit rested on him, before even there was Pentecost
  • Anna lived as a widow for a long time, living through decades of social upheaval with different rulers, but still hoping and waiting

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Those Who Dream… Sow Joy and Justice

Isaiah 61:1-4, NRSV
Luke 1:46-55, NRSV

Reflections

If this great reversal (of Mary’s Magnificat) is not my longing, if I hesitate or downright refuse to construe Christ’s coming in terms of systemic change and resistance to oppressive forces, Mary’s Magnificat presses me to ask if I am among the satiated and satisfied, “the rich” who are “sent away empty” from this Advent season because I am unable to hope for, and thus unable to receive, divine promise.

— Jennifer McBride, Radical Discipleship: A Liturgical Politics of the Gospel

  • And when we listen to Mary’s son, we get a sense that her rebel anthem moonlighted as Jesus’ lullaby. Mary’s Rebel Anthem
  • With the Magnificat, Mary not only announces a birth, she announces the inauguration of a new kingdom, one that stands in stark contrast to every other kingdom—past, present, and future—that relies on violence and exploitation to achieve “greatness.” With the Magnificat, Mary declares that God has indeed chosen sides. And it’s not with the powerful, but the humble. It’s not with the rich, but with the poor. It’s not with the occupying force, but with people on the margins. It’s not with narcissistic kings, but with an un-wed, un-believed teenage girl entrusted with the holy task of birthing, nursing, and nurturing God. Mary, the Magnificat, and an Unsentimental Advent
  • “About 90 percent of the Old Testament is missing [and] 50 percent of the New Testament is missing” Slave Bible From The 1800s Omitted Key Passages That Could Incite Rebellion

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Those Who Dream… Prepare the Way

Isaiah 40:1-11, NRSV
Mark 1:1-8, MSG

Reflections

Preparing the Lord’s path means challenging systems and structures that we have institutionalized as normal but that God condemns as oppressive and crooked. It means clearing the path of self-aggrandizement, self-absorption, and greed to make way for a community where all of creation is valued

— Traci Blackmon, “Preparing the Way for Justice”, Alliance for Fair Food

  • 2020 has been a year of bad dreams
  • John the Baptist was sent as the messenger, preparing the way ahead for Christ, and also for us to come to Christ
  • to be faithful dreamer, waiting for the coming of Christ
  • Wilderness is where John the Baptist started preparing the way, with all sorts of struggles, physically/spiritually, but it is also where God reveals Himself

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Those Who Dream… Keep Awake

Isaiah 64:1-4, NRSV
Mark 13:24-37, NRSV

Reflections

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

— Langston Hughes, Dreams

  • dominant power is not the ultimate power
  • keep awake is to do truth telling, often with sadness
  • learning to wait for God
  • what God is doing in you while you wait, is more important than the thing you are waiting for
  • Advent Credo by Allan Boesak, From Walking on Thorns

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When Things Fall Apart: Deconstruction

Acts 9:1-19, NRSV

Reflections

Fanaticism is always a compensation for hidden doubt. Religious persecutions occur only where heresy is a menace

— Carl Jung

  • The dark night is God’s attack on religion. — Rowan Williams
  • It was Apostle Paul’s dark night
  • Jesus is one with the bodies of those who have called on his name and followed in his way by the Spirit. Their pain and suffering is his very own. … The mystery of God is found in human flesh, moving in and with the disciples who are a communion of suffering and a witness to life. — Willie James Jennings

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When Things Fall Apart: Unraveling Internalized Shame

John 4:1-16, NRSV

Reflections

Our internalized shame can become a barrier to intimacy with God. When we are seen for who we are, we can begin to heal and reconcile with our true selves, reconcile with our community and also reconcile with our Creator.

— Mira Sawlani-Joyner

  • Usual focus of this story is why the Samaritan woman at the well has been married 5 times
  • she is venerated as a saint with the name Photine
  • opened up to Jesus, although just a little bit, in admitting her shame
  • she experienced acceptance from Jesus
  • showing vulnerability and being authentic
  • shifting the internalized shame to becoming authentic
  • being authentic allows us to connect to others, to the community

 

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When Things Fall Apart: Turn

Matthew 25:1-13, NRSV

Reflections

“The fragile human world will one day be caught up into the endless glory of God and will be held securely in God’s hands forever. But this is not a moment that has arrived in all its fullness in our history. We know about the promise because of the reality of Jesus’ resurrection.

The new life that God as brought into being after the worst of human injustice and pain. But what this means is not an instant triumphant conclusion to history, but a fresh commitment to work in light of the promise we have glimpsed, confident that what we do has meaning because it is at one with the purposes of God.

— Rowan Williams

  • Wise girls and Foolish girls
  • Pattern of life: being prepared, being attentive, being mindful
  • Christian faith is constant turning to God
  • Individually we cannot rely on casual spirituality
  • we need to prepare the oil for ourselves, especially in these times of darkness
  • Doors do close, do not wait until tomorrow
  • Keep your lamps trimmed and burning / keep your lamps trimmed and burning / keep your lamps trimmed and burning / For the Time is drawing nigh. — African American Spiritual

 

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When Things Fall Apart: Uncertainty

Matthew 14:22-33, NRSV

Reflections

We might see the moral of the story as “you should have so much faith that you can walk on water toward Jesus” but the truth of this story is that Jesus walks toward us. The truth of the story is that my abundance of faith or lack of faith does not deter God from drawing close. That even if you are scared to death you can say Lord Save Me and the hand of God will find you in even the darkest waters. Because this is a story not of morals but of movement. Not of heroes of the faith making their way to Christ but of Christ drawing near to you in the midst of fear.

— Nadia Bolz-Weber

  • Behavior has meaning, not just “right or wrong”
  • Is Peter testing his own faith by trying to walk on water, or is he questioning the appearance of Jesus on water in the storm?
    • Once Peter is safe in the boat, Jesus asks him the question he can’t answer: “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”  I wonder if Jesus asks this question, not because Peter gives way to panic and nearly drowns, but because his doubt compels him to make a foolish request in the first place.  I wonder if Jesus’s question means something like this: “Peter, as soon as you saw me, I told you exactly who I was.  You heard my voice.  I spoke words of assurance and comfort to you.  Why didn’t you believe me?” — Out on Water (Journey with Jesus) – Debi Thomas
  • Perhaps Peter would be wise to discuss with others Christ followers in the boat first, rather than going alone

 

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