Sheryl Crow sings, “A Change Will Do You Good.” I like Sheryl Crow and will likely be listening to her a lot next week when I take a few days off. We were supposed to go to Santa Fe with friends to enjoy the mountains, landscape, city, and the green and red chile. We booked the time so I could rest a bit before Pastor Pam goes on sabbatical from April 5 – July 5. (I obviously won’t be leaving town then!) Due to the pandemic, New Mexico would rather we stay away. Lately, our lives have made us a bit more cautious as well. So, vacation will be a staycation where I work in the basement and cook New Mexican Cuisine. It is a change. But the change will do us good.
The paradox of religious faith today is that the church has, on the one hand, never been as irrelevant as it is today. On the other hand, the faith of the church has never been more essential. In a world that becomes ever more secularized and so, less religious, the role that faith played in the world has been abandoned. To me, it means that love has become scarce just when it is most needed.
Suffering has been a strong theme in the lectionary readings for last Sunday and for this Transfiguration Sunday. Do you like to suffer? If you do, let me know, because that is not a usual nor healthy human response. We try to avoid suffering at all costs. And when we do suffer, some put on stoic faces to not let anyone know. We want to be strong, or at least appear that way. It is not just our human suffering that we avoid, but we also dismiss the idea of a suffering Savior. Perhaps we resist that idea, because we are ones who know that if we are going to follow Jesus, then we are also going to be vulnerable to suffering ourselves. We would really prefer the easy way Jesus!
I’m tired. As I look to the clock, it tells me this day should have been over some time ago. But there are deadlines to be met and things remain undone. Tomorrow is another day full of things to do and demands to be met. I’m tired.
The truth for me is that a pandemic, insurrection, and the health struggle my wife and I are facing can leave me a little blue (read this as a rhetorical understatement with accompanying sigh). When the struggles we face can easily unhook us from our moorings and leave us spiritually adrift we need to re-ground ourselves in the source of faith, grace, love, and joy somehow.
For me one place where I can find a divine hand to hold, a divine Word to call me back is the Book of Psalms. Years ago, I read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s instruction to pray a psalm each day and to do them in order. [i] Today, I encountered Psalm 16.
There’s been a news story circulating about a poll that shows Americans have become fearful of one another. It seems like right now, here in America, we have a real problem with relating to people who are different to us.
A few weeks into the new year and we find that the trials and sufferings of 2020 have not magically disappeared. And yet, I do not know why they would. We hope that as 2021 continues the challenges will be tamed. But how does that happen? I think this reading from John gives us some further insight.
Cancer is just a word until it comes close. Until a doctor says the biopsy was positive and you know it has invaded part of your body, it is just a word. Until you hold the hand of your beloved feeling helpless, trying to imagine the road ahead, cancer is a distant tragedy suffered by others. Until you bear the title “survivor,” and cancer is an indelible word tattooed in your very being, cancer can be rather abstract. Cancer is a terrifying word that nurtures fears of pain, suffering and death.
I’ve been thinking about a MASH episode lately. It takes place between two New Year’s Eve celebrations held in 1950 & 1951. Col. Sherman T. Potter, dressed as Father Time, says “Here's to the New Year. May she be a damn sight better than the old one, and may we all be home before she's over.” In real life, it would take two more toasts to see things end in 1953. Time and fate are fickle things.
There’s a tradition at Christmastime that seems as though it’s been around forever, and it actually does go back centuries (I don’t know how many). It’s the tradition of telling the story of Christmas through actors. It’s called the Christmas play! This year, that tradition won’t be as wide-spread as normal. If it does happen, it will not be in a normal sense. Regardless of the changes happening this year, a Christmas play is a tradition that nearly all Christians have come to know.