Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Since this Sunday is Christ the King Sunday, I've been turning to my annual contemplation of kings. This year, that certainly includes King Corn. A documentary about our food economy, the film is both amusing and sobering, as we learn more about how entrenched we are in an agricultural economy that is far from the just, life-giving system we might hope for. Our economy has been shaped and trained to maintain the current structure. Too often, it means profit for the most powerful (King Corn), at the expense of many others.
What a good image to hold in mind as we celebrate Christ the King.

This year, as always, we need reminders that, as followers of Jesus, we need to be vigilant in making sure nothing else--no other person or power--is "king" in our lives.

Instead, we celebrate the unlikely King Jesus, whose reign was secured with self-sacrifice. Crazy, and beautiful.

This King, Christ the King, is all about justice, and life-giving grace.

So, as we gather to worship God this week, we'll celebrate this unconventional reign. We'll read stories of God's promised river of life, from Revelation 22. There, we're given an image of God's grace, which comes like a river in the very midst of the city. It brings life and healing to the city.

All of which is good cause for Thanksgiving, I'd say. And a good reason to again ask for God's vision to be our vision. Imagine what would be possible if it were to guide our everyday living.

I hope to see you there!

Monday, November 10, 2008

wide open space

The Psalm for this week opens up a space between the dangerous and life-giving qualities of nature. Disaster and storm shake our world up. Somehow, in the midst of all that, God brings us out to a broad place, a hopeful place.

In a similar way, Matthew's gospel moves Jesus very quickly--from the glorious affirmation of God at his baptism to a time of deep testing the wilderness.

In both of these lessons, danger and grace are held together, smashed up against each other, and make us feel a little motion sick on account of the quick switch-up.

But isn't that how it happens in our lives, too? Tremendous uncertainty and anxiety come to us alongside moments of absolute confidence. A child is born as we grieve the death of a loved one. I celebrate my husband's return from war even as I grieve that someone else's spouse is sent to replace him. Inexcusable suffering somehow makes way for unimaginable grace as a victim of violence chooses a path of forgiveness and reconciliation.

These things are all tangled together. And, often, I find myself most able to find the beautiful bits when I give myself a little space. Sometimes I need to just take a moment, breathe, and ponder.

Which brings me to a Wendell Berry poem that's been on my mind for the past week:

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

making choices

Election day seems like as good a day as any to consider this week's Old Testament lesson: Joshua (who, in last week's scripture, assumed leadership in the generation after Moses) delivers his farewell address. In it, he sets a clear choice before the people: follow God (the God who brought them out of slavery in Egypt) or serve other would-be gods.

"As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD," he says, in an inspiring call to a better way of living.

My challenge is that, even having proudly cast my ballot in our elections this week, I know that I'm called to something more difficult: casting my life in with God's work in the world.

Joshua dares to make it clear, telling the people exactly what they're going to have to give up. I wonder, if he were to speak to me today, what he would ask me to surrender. I suspect it would be a challenge.

Talitha Arnold, writing in Christian Century nailed me when she wrote: "Had Joshua presided at my ordination, I doubt he would have let me get by with a simple vow to study, pray, teach and preach. He probably would have demanded, 'Will you give up your personal gods of procrastination, perfectionism and the pursuit of trivia?'"

I'm guessing we still have a lot to give up. Greed, selfish individualism, hatred, fear, self-doubt, the belief that we can secure our own futures by accumulating things or building fences, and more.


As we continue to celebrate the season of creation, Joshua's words seem to have new implications. "As for me and my household," he says. As members of the household of God, we're called to be a part of making choices as a society that reflect Jesus' values. Choices that turn away from sin, injustice and oppression and turn us toward one another and God.

We know that this also requires us to make changes in the ways our habits and systems treat creation. Besides the reality that we are harming God's creation, we're also aware that our pollution and destruction of resources harms others in our household. Environmental damage hurts those who have least in our world first--the developing world suffers before we in San Diego suffer.

I wonder what it will mean for us to, again and anew, turn from the gods that have tempted us to destruction, and toward the God who is salvation. What new, big household habits will we need?