Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Just a glimpse

This week, we mark the end of our Christian year as we celebrate Christ the King Sunday. Which we like to catch a glimpse of the much-better work we think possible through God. As we were peering into God's Kingdom...

Which, really, is a little like what we tend to do on Thanksgiving every year: share in a meal that looks like the kind of eating we'd always like to do. It gathers together extended and often separate family and friends, plenty of nourishing and delicious food, and is as lovely as possible. And, as far as I can tell, it's the one day when more of us are more likely to take time to pause and give thanks for the good stuff we enjoy. Even if these things don't happen every day, maybe we do them once a year to remind us that they're possible.

The thing is, this Christ the King Sunday celebration is even better: it gathers together a wild and diverse assortment of people and is open to the whole world, the sacrament of Holy Communion sustains our souls and is divinely beautiful. As usual, we pass time in worship giving thanks, confessing our failures, and seeking to be remade in God's image.

And, most importantly, it reminds us that we belong in a reality even bigger, more powerful and important that the perfect Thanksgiving holiday feast.

(This is very good news for those of us whose Thanksgiving feasts won't look like the pages of Martha Stewart Living. Nothing against Martha; I just know that distance from loved ones, grief over those missing from the table, budgets that are already stretched and cannot include the foods or decorations we might rather have, work schedules, ongoing interpersonal conflicts and tensions and many other things get in the way of our "perfect" holidays.)

We're reminded this weekend that Christ is Alpha and Omega, A-through-Z. God's power is bigger and more amazing than anything else. And, though it's not always fully obvious in the midst of our current troubles, God's truth is on a whole 'nother level. It means justice, peace and life for all creation.

So, come help us peek ahead to the kingdom, and get a glimpse of the other world that is possible.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

daring prayer

Originally uploaded by Matthew San Diego
This week's scripture, from 1 Samuel, tells another story of a faithful woman; here, Hannah is a model of a faithful, prayerful follower of God.

At a time when few trusted in the mess that was their political and religious structure, Hannah's personal life is full of struggle, too. Unable to bear children, she's taunted by her husband's other wife, and haunted by her own desire for a child.

So, she does a bold thing: she prays about it. Fervently, and without the help of a priest or the interceding powers of an offering. Her prayer is so wild that the priest assumes she's drunk; after they talk, though, he affirms the power of her genuine, deep, whole-hearted prayer.

She doesn't behave as though she's entitled to what she wants; she is willing to make promises and sacrifices, too.

When her child, Samuel, is born, she sings another bold prayer. It tells of the power of a God who turns things around and upside down, inverting everything we think we know about the world.

As I read Hannah's prayers--the one where she pleaded and bargained with God and the one where she sang God's praises--I'm struck by how genuine they are. They are authentic, unmitigated, heartfelt expressions of herself. They need to polishing, no professional's help, no gold-embossed typesetting. They are real.

Perhaps this is what God is asking of us: that we would come to God with our pain and our joy, trusting in and celebrating connection to a God in whom all things are possible.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

widows and heroes

This week, we get the end of the book of Ruth--a beautiful (if a bit racy) story of faithfulness and redemption. Having risked the little she had left in following her mother-in-law Naomi back to Judah, she now follows Naomi's direction, using the small window of opportunity she had available, and secures not only a husband for herself, but a future for Naomi, too.

Where there seemed to be very little opportunity no hopeful future, a new way forward emerged. It relied on the goodwill of Boaz, Ruth's new husband, but also on the planning and action of the two widows in the story: Ruth and Naomi.

In our gospel lesson from Mark, there's mention of more widows: first, as the scribes are called out for preying on them, and then as one humble, faithful widow gives all she has to God--her last dollar.

I love that in all these stories, we're taught important values: that we should give care to the vulnerable in our midst. It is sinful to take advantage of those who are poor.

But I also love that the most vulnerable in these stories--the "have-nots"--also show themselves to have a whole lot: a power to proclaim something important about how God works in the world. No mere recipients of abuse or of care, these widows are agents in the world, showing us all how to live.

This makes we wonder who I should be looking to for lessons on faithfulness...