This is cross-posted to www.eastsideexperiment.com – our local community expression that we’re experimenting with. We’ll be discussing it in person on Sunday morning if you’re local and interested!
It’s the season of Advent. A season of expectation and waiting. In the ancient text about Jesus written by Luke, we have two songs of expectation. One from a young woman, and another from an old man, both glorifying God for His goodness, His restoration, His power.
But imagine if you will, the voices of these two people. Mary – a young Jewish woman, found pregnant before marriage. Formerly known for her faithfulness and devotion to the Lord, now she is seen as ruined, tainted. Joseph, her betrothed, most likely was encouraged to set her aside, and he even considers doing so, but refrains because of a message from an angel. What kind of expectations could such a woman have? Scorn, ridicule, pain, or suffering? Yet it says that Mary treasures the announcement and is filled with excitement and expectation for the Goodness of God. How often do we see the Goodness of God in the midst of news that is troubling or disconcerting? How often do we treasure the word of Life that is given to us, even as we know it will bring us struggle and heartache? Mary shines as an example of a young woman who trusts, who lives knowing the Heart of the Father, trusting that His Goodness will triumph over any circumstance.
Contrast that with Zechariah – an old Jewish priest, tasked with serving the Lord, held in honor and esteem, and given even more when his wife becomes pregnant miraculously after decades of waiting without any seeming life. Now, Elizabeth is preparing to give birth. Yet, Zechariah’s response was clouded with doubt. Even with all the trappings of a religious faith to convince him that the angel spoke rightly, he still doubts God’s goodness. He knows that if true, it will create honor and fulfillment for his family – the opposite of what the announcement foreshadows for Mary. Yet, he cannot bring himself to believe that God is FOR him, that God’s GOODNESS will triumph. And so, in consequence, while Mary rejoices and sings with expectation, Zechariah is given nine months of silence to ponder and come to terms with God’s word coming to fulfillment.
As time moves forward, however, expectation grows, and both Mary and Zechariah move deeper into an understanding of God’s Goodness and promise. They see it from unique perspectives, however. Mary’s perspective reflects the oppressed, the suffering, the poor in spirit – the very people her son Jesus will bless in His Beatitudes later in life. She sees the promise in store for these people and foreshadows the coming blessing of God for all people. Zechariah sees the light of tender mercy dawning as well, realizing that God’s perfect Love casts out fear and doubt, allowing him to serve God and be a minister of His Goodness.
Let’s look at two portions of the text:
From Mary – From generation to generation, God’s lovingkindness endures for those who revere Him. God’s arm has accomplished mighty deeds. The proud in mind and heart, God has sent away in disarray. The rulers from their high positions of power, God has brought down low. And those who were humble and lowly, God has elevated with dignity. The hungry—God has filled with fine food. The rich—God has dismissed with nothing in their hands. To Israel, God’s servant, God has given help, As promised to our ancestors, remembering Abraham and his descendants in mercy forever.
From Zechariah – He has been merciful to our ancestors by remembering his sacred covenant—the covenant he swore with an oath to our ancestor Abraham. We have been rescued from our enemies so we can serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness for as long as we live…Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.”
Both Zechariah and Mary know the promises of God and His Goodness for their people, and claim them for the future.
As we enter a season of Advent, we are invited to remember and participate in God’s Goodness, His mercy, His Kindness, His Faithfulness to all generations. Even as God was faithful to Mary and Zechariah in their circumstances, bringing restoration and redemption, God is eager to be faithful to us in this season of our lives. He is eager to be faithful as we are expectant for not only the return of the King, but the restoration and renewal of all things. God desires for us to partner with Him and trust in His Goodness. He longs for us to treasure our promises and allow our expectation to move our spirits to rejoice and proclaim the good things He has done, is doing, and will continue to do.
Some questions for reflection:
* What promises have you received from the Lord that remain unfulfilled? Have you held them with expectation or with doubt?
* In what ways have you seen God’s Goodness manifest, even when times are hard – and seeming to get harder?
* How can you partner with God this holiday season to see His Goodness made manifest to other people?
* What would you like to hear from God in this season? Take a moment and journal out some questions that you would like to have answered.
Nieces, nephews, god-children, and friends.
Yes, you can be honest to goodness *friends* with a child without any weirdness. Some of my most clever and insightful friends are 2, or 5, or 7 years old.
And sometimes it makes me sad how suspicious we adults have become. I watch my younger friends and their approach to the world, with wonder and awe and beauty and humor.
They run around freely. Completely.
I’m taking a deep breath today.
It was Ash Wednesday.
I didn’t go anywhere special to have ashes painted on my forehead, though I respect and admire those who do. But I did have a remarkably spiritual morning.
It was sweetness and light and mystery and joy. From a place of tenderness I’ve never really known. And it drew me once again into the place of peace. The place of knowing. The place where things are reflecting ever-increasing glory.
I read a different translation yesterday of Isaiah 40:3-5. It moved a comma, and indicated that we’re preparing a way for the Lord *in* the wilderness, not shouting *in* the wilderness.
In the past, I would have always seen: “A voice cries out in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way’”. I’m sure that there’s some interpretation going on there, as well, thinking of the New Testament prophet John the Baptist. This particular translation, however, struck me deeply.
This is what Lent feels like to me. There are so many interpretations of what Lent is about. Fasting, praying, giving things up. But it’s about being in the wilderness. And that’s where I have been dwelling recently. A speaker that I listen to says that the wilderness is the place that Jesus brings you when He’s most pleased with you. It’s His secret place, His treasured place. It’s the place where you become even more the glorious person that He has destined you to be.Read More
Based on the ancient doctor Luke’s telling of the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus:
Read the ancient text here
In this text in Luke, we have the Transfiguration. At first glance, it seems like a simple tale of Jesus’ glory revealed. But as I was trying to read more closely, I noticed a few things.
First, Moses and Elijah don’t just appear to cheer Jesus on. God does that himself a few verses later. Verse 31 talks about an Exodus and fulfillment. Considering that Luke puts this story between two stories about his prediction about his death, this makes a great deal of sense. Because Moses and Elijah are probably the best two people that God could have sent to Jesus to help him understand his mission there.
Moses – the son of unfulfilled promises and Elijah – the son of silence and glory…
A different translation of this text highlights a particular passage in this chapter by formatting. It’s a passage that the ancient scribe quotes from an even more ancient prophet named Micah. The passage in Micah is actually a bit harsher than the one that Matthew gives. In Micah, the prophet indicates that there is a “rising up against” or actually “despising” or “defying” going on. “Neighborhoods and families are falling to pieces. The closer they are—sons, daughters, in-laws—the worse they can be. Your own family is the enemy…”*
I’ve seen what happens when families fall to pieces. The verse isn’t just about families falling apart. It’s about the call and the cost of discipleship.
Jesus has sent out his twelve apprentices to minister to people. This is part of their commission. Jesus makes it clear that it is no longer simply family relationships that define our identity when we choose to follow the call to Light and Love. It seems that he’s saying, “your first call is to me, not your family. Let go of your creature comforts in order to experience the truly unconditional love of Your Divine Parent in Heaven.”
Jesus tells his followers to speak out into the daylight those things that were revealed in hiddenness. The Spirit saying that things have been revealed to the disciples in the quiet places – their personal revelations – and they are now to go out and shout them from the rooftops. I don’t know about you, but my private times with the Divine have normally been precisely that – private. I may journal about them on my own, but “blogging” them places me in complete vulnerability. I have a really beautiful journal full of hand-written prayers and revelations. To bring them out of the hidden places into the glow of my computer monitor is a bit nerve-wracking. What if people think less of me? What if some of what I say leads people to believe that I’m a bit mental? What if they think I’m wrong? What if they stop being my friend because of what they read? And what if this makes my family angry?