A Kind of Hush

People want to feel sorry for me this time of year.

Yes, Advent and the run-up to Christmas is a busy time for church pastors.

And, it is so real, this remembering of promises of peace and the gifting of hope. People come to church leaning in to hear the song of the angels.

We do a lot this time of year. This Sunday we will treat our hearts to a service of Lessons and Carols. The following Sunday the children will lead us in a telling of the Christmas miracle. The next Sunday we will expand into a Taize service meant to help us make space in our souls for the Word Made Flesh.

We’ll have a special service of Hope and Healing where we’ll name our losses and allow tears to be. There are teas and gatherings and Christmas toy drives and gift wrapping offered at our Thrift Store.

While all these things are going on, people will be hospitalized and will welcome a church pastor. Families will gather and dissolve. Gifts will be pursued and purchased and children’s wishes will be heard and all of what we do happens because in Jesus flesh became the living place of God.

That’s church in these days.

For me, it is one of the best seasons of the year. On the 25th I will rest. But in the meantime, church is a stable offering warmth in the sometimes bitter cold of life.

This innkeeper gives thanks.

all saints

dad paver

Every year the church pauses to name the saints who are no longer physically with us.

This year we will be shepherded into and out of worship by bagpipes. The blast of sound will serve as a musical rupture of the thin veil separating the living from the dead.

The service is so very alive. We name church members who have died in the previous year and project their faces onto our screen as we savor the ways they have blessed and changed us.

This year our church has been changed by 20 deaths. While the grief around their passing is so very real so too is the pleasure of saying their names and remembering their being.

The seminary that I attended offered an opportunity to memorialize beloveds through buying a paver for a newly finished chapel courtyard. Since my father was for a time adjunct faculty at UTS and since my heart longs for places and times where his name can be in the hearts of the now, it felt so good to create a reminder that once he was, even as he still is in the hearts of many.

And of course during this thin veil time, I wonder about my own death and the day when it will be my face on the screen, my name on the lips, my being bookended with birth and death dates.

Poet Mary Oliver asks : “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Tomorrow we name those who answered that question every day they were given.

And so it comes to us.

How is it we plan to enter fully the wild and precious gift that is life?

Mindfully or no, we live our answer.

Advent 16

A shoot shall come out of the stump of Jesse.  The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.     Isaiah 11: 1a, 6


Children were our ministers.

We arrived at church yesterday morning heavy of heart, raw, and peeled back.  After hearing the news of bullets unleashed in an elementary school and after seeing the faces of snuffed lives, there was an almost physical need to gather together.  We needed the Word.  We needed to see each other and remember the larger story that this recent violence could not dim.

We needed to be church.

On the docket for the morning was precisely what our hearts longed for:  our children up front, in a place where we could sing their beauty with our eyes.  They were sharing the annual pageant; the telling of the time when a holy – as all children are – child was born into astounding vulnerability.

There were singing angels and wrestling shepherds and sheep with pink tights and a Mary and baby Jesus with matching red hair and a proudly sentinel Joseph and there were in the sanctuary people with their hearts bruised, open, and hungry for hope.

The children were our ministers.

There is unfathomable pain in this world, this we know.  The quiet desperation lived by too many erupts in innocence-crushing ways.  We wonder at such times if there is any Balm in Gilead powerful enough to be antidote.  Because we are willing to summon the courage to be open to all that life has to offer us, we are bound, one to the other, in the ache provoked by unspeakable violence.

As a people who seek to follow the teachings of a babe born in a manger who dared to call us to love, we were reminded by the children that there is more to the story than executions.

There is resurrection; resurrection practiced in hugs and tears and gathering and remembering and choosing to live in such a way that maybe, just maybe, we will practice love in the living of our days.

On Sunday we were reminded that angels sing yet.  In the swirl of pain, angels sing yet.

Led by our children, we could remember.




some days are like that

Some Sundays require holy naps.

This Sunday was one.  The church had turned its soul inside out to provide a beautiful service of Lessons and Carols.  During the second service the music and power of community blessed.  Between services a tea was offered by some of the pillars of the church.

It was a stunning morning.  And, I was beat.  I came home and put myself to bed.

After a fine sleep feast, I attended the Christmas Pageant at Cooper’s church.   The place was packed full of moms and dads and grandparents and church members and kids adorned with angel costumes and shepherd’s duds.  The energy of expectation was palpable.

We began with hearing a youth orchestra play, followed by a children’s choir singing about how powerful it is to share light in this world.

During the congregational singing of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” the tears stoppered inside of me started to flow.  I was sitting next to my husband in worship, which I never get to do.  I was surrounded by a people who needed to tell a story of good news and grace.  There was pride and joy and wonder in the air.

I needed it.

Sometimes the relational freight of being church near breaks my heart.  The squabbles and misunderstandings and wound scraping seep into my soul and the grief of it becomes climb-into-bed powerful.  Like many in the season of early nights, I can wonder if the light will shine again with warmth and promise.

And then I am enfolded into a people who share the good news of the Word Made Flesh with gusto.  The reason for the season is so clear:  we are to be enfleshed love, sharing light even when the times of darkness seem near overwhelming. We need each other in order to remember who we are.

This was a day of proclamation:  Through the strings and voices at the Lessons and Carols service, through the cello and gentle of the Living Waters worship, through the sharing of sugar and warmth at the Christmas Tea, and through the raucous and tender way the story of the birth of Love was shared at Minnehaha UMC.

We remember who we are.  We are a people awaiting a rebirth a wonder.

Thank God for the call to come, to bow, and to weep for the beauty of it all.