light

Outside the sanctuary a bitter wind was howling. On this first Sunday of the new year the intrepid gathered to celebrate the power of light to guide us to new life. It was Epiphany Sunday.

We heard the story of how it was three wise men followed the star.

Most enchantingly, we heard the scripture read by young people. Both the prophet Isaiah and the writer of Matthew’s gospel were given voice by children and youth who call our church home. Their moms and dads had cell phones at the handy to record their young wonders and every person in the place leaned in and leant their breath and energy in order that the story might be told. Through the hearts and sounds of our very own beloveds the story was told.

The woman who directs the Little Angels children’s choirs – preschoolers who sing open-hearted beauty – shared a solo. Witnessing her singers watch their teacher bear witness with shine and beauty broke my heart open with wonder.

What is this glory that we share? What is this light we seek to follow?

On a wretchedly cold Minnesota morning the light of Christ drew us near and we bowed and offered our gifts. We offered the gifts of our presence and our intentions and our longings and our shine and we were warmed in the doing of it.

And the winter did not overcome it.

light shine

People are so good.

Getting into my car yesterday after a major snow dump, I knew I was in trouble. We live in the city and the city had not plowed the alley behind our house. By the looks of it one or two cars had made it through, but the snow was deep and my Honda poorly equipped.

But of course I tried.

And got stuck.

Wedged into my neighbor’s snow bank, I couldn’t get my car door open so after clambering over seats I freed myself and went in search of a shovel.

I heard a lovely and hopeful sound. A neighbor was out shoveling and chose to see my plight. He came over and while we shared wonder at the volume of snow that had come our way, we dug and threw and freed my car for a time. I almost made it through the alley before it got stuck again and this time the original fine friend was joined by another who made it possible for me to get out.

They set aside their own time and agendas, did these men.

I watched the same sort of light shine throughout the day. A different neighbor worked at the end of the alley clearing away the snow. Pushers and shovelers and commiserators and wonderers all, we were.

We had come through another storm. The world was bright and beautiful and we had kindness to spare.

People are so good.

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.

Advent Day 12

Rejoice in Christ always; again I will say, Rejoice.  Let your gentleness be known to everyone.  Jesus is near.  Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.     Philippians 4: 4 – 7

Here is what I see:  I see gentleness being lived in community.

Every Wednesday at 8:00 AM I meet with men from the church for bible study.  They have been at this for years.  They are seasoned souls who have lived a lot of life and they are beautiful.

And, they are getting on in years.  We check in with each other weekly and the list of bodily challenges is as varied as the men around the table.  There is a constancy in the sharing:  Growing older involves the deeply spiritual discipline of letting go.

Some of the men around the table have “had the talk” with their children.  In a poigniant and circular playing out of love, their children have asked to share with them a fact of life: they are worried about their parents driving.  They believe that getting behind the wheel of a car is not safe any longer.   They love their dads enough to share their concerns.

It is hard to go from being the co-maker of family law to the recepient of same.

The beauty that I see is their willingness to reflect upon the changes they are experiencing.  There is laughter thrown in and there is a lot of grace.

What moved me in the “let your gentleness be known to everyone” department happened as I was leaving for a meeting directly following bible study.  Out in the parking lot, the men who drive were loading up their cars with the bible study members who no longer drive.

They ushered each other into the waiting chariots with a sense of reverence and care.

The promise of “Jesus is near” was made flesh in the parking lot of our church.  Ninety-three year olds drive the snowy streets of South Minneapolis in order that their brothers might sit at table and unpack scripture.

Jesus lives.

not winter

The bit of snow we had is running down the alleys.

It is once again Spring.  In January.  In Minnesota.

Even as I celebrate the lack of swaddle in going about these days, I’m thinking about what I am missing.

I miss the crackle of really cold air.  Somehow, the crisp that instantly freezes noses brings with it clarity and a sense of being very alive.

Are the stars as brilliant?  The hush that happens when snow blankets the ground seems to heighten awareness of the stars.  When the world is true winter the basics somehow shine brighter.

And what have we Minnesotans to complain about?  The self-congratulatory parlayed into a communal sense of getting through winter is missing.  We seem a bit lost without it.  Certainly we talk plenty about the weather – it’s so warm, so balmy! – but the chatter has lost a flavor I have come to realize I value: sanctified suffering.

And the chatter underneath the chatter?  Worry.

Say what you will about how fine it is to celebrate a mild winter. I’ll join you.  But what does this mean?  What sorts of human abuses of this living thing called creation has prompted this warm?  What does the summer hold with so little water on the earth?  What have we wrought?

I am seeking to live the celebration that is now.

And, the questions will not leave me.