Vinyl Siding and Ash Wednesday

On an Ash Wednesday a few years back, I was leading worship in an historic church in rural Georgia where I was the pastor. The rustic mid-century modern building had been designed decades earlier by a student at Georgia Tech who had won a design competition sponsored by the denomination. This architect would later go on to settle in Florida and become a renowned designer of mid-century modern churches throughout the state. A society in his name offers yearly tours of these Florida churches. It was in a brochure from one of these tours that I saw my little church for the first time as it had looked just after it was built: rustic, truly unique, graceful, and beautiful.

vinyl

Sadly, however, long before I ever became pastor of the church, the congregants, who had no appreciation for the unique design and no knowledge that this was a famous architect’s first project, covered up the exterior of rough-hewed wood sourced from trees on the site with ugly yellow vinyl siding that had been permanently stained with mold and red Georgia clay over the years. To add insult to injury, they had also tar-papered the unique hyperbolic roof. The building had gone from beautiful to simply horrendous – a sort of Frankenstein with ghoulish parts that didn’t match.

I mentioned this building to a seasoned pastor one day. She said that she had always felt that a church building said something about the theology of people who worshiped there. She asked me what I thought about her theory. My response:

“They had had something beautiful, but they didn’t understand that beauty and so they made it into something truly ugly.”

I am talking about the building, but not just the building, also about the people. And not just about the people who attended church there. But about all of us.

The story of Jesus is beautiful – a story of God’s unconditional love for the world. But if we don’t understand it, if we distort it by putting conditions on that love, by limiting its capabilities, by turning it into a list of rules to follow, then it is very much like putting vinyl siding on top of beautiful rough-hewed wood.

The liturgy we followed that night as I led the Lenten worship allowed each congregant to approach me away from the others in order to receive the ashes. They were able to whisper to me a confession or a prayer request before I prayed for them and then put the ashes on their heads.

Midway through the disposition of ashes, an old man approached me. He whispered, “Pastor, I did something I should have been locked up for many years ago. Will God ever forgive me?” We prayed together asking God for forgiveness. Then I put the ashes on his head and said the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

He turned to go and then came back and whispered, “How do I know God has forgiven me?”

I whispered back, “God, through the death of Jesus, forgave you 2000 years ago. It may be Lent where we examine our lives for sin, but we know the resurrection has already come! You ARE forgiven!”

“God forgave me a long time ago?”

“Yes,” I shook my head and smiled.

He smiled back with tears.

Later that week, he came by and we talked. The theology he had heard all his life at this church was one of punishment not forgiveness. Vinyl siding had been placed over the story of Jesus’ love.  This old man had been living in sadness all those years instead of enjoying the beauty.

It may be Lent. We may examine our lives for sin. We may ask for forgiveness and change our ways, but let’s not forget that we know the end of the story. God loves us and we have been forgiven – there has been a resurrection!

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Uniting Christian Liberals and Religious Conservatives?

The quote below is fascinating. Trump’s approval rating among Republicans has gone up since the election and is extremely high, but his approval rating overall is extremely bad.

“Trump’s 40% approval rating is 21 points below average for a president finishing his first month in office, while his 87% approval rating among Republicans is second only to that of George W. Bush among all GOP presidents elected in the last 65 years.” – CNN

Conservatives and Liberals simply see things so differently! My theology professors put it this way…

Religious Conservatives have a list of rules that they believe individuals must follow (and make others follow) or risk God’s judgement. Adherence to religious law is their priority in in politics.

Secular Conservatives don’t care about religious rules, but just want a government that benefits them personally – usually financially. They don’t want to do any more for others than they need to do in order to keep society civil. Their personal wealth is their priority in politics.

Here is the fascinating thing!  Brilliantly, Secular Conservatives (beginning with Reagan and the moral majority — continuing to Trump) have done an incredible job of convincing Religious Conservatives that they are on the same page politically – when, in reality, they are not! Secular Conservatives are fine with gay marriage and abortion, but they will compromise if they need the Religious Conservative’s vote. Had Secular Conservatives not orchestrated this brilliant union, they would have had no chance in any of the recent Presidential elections.

Then there are the Liberals – whether religious or secular.  They are not focused on a set of rules for individuals to follow, but on building just communities where they believe both the individual and earth can thrive. This generally puts them in conflict with both Religious Conservatives (think abortion, gay rights, women’s rights, black lives matter, etc) and Secular Conservatives (think the pipeline, minimum wage, student loans, and wall street).

I think my professors were probably right. I have been chewing on their words for a long time.  What do you think?

If they are right, then my question becomes … how does this great divide between Religious Conservatives and Liberal Christians heal?  Can it?  Would love to hear your ideas.

Check out April’s Books, for group and individual reading.  She’d love for you to find the words “Follow” somewhere on this page (depending on your browser) and follow her blog too!

Progressives: Let’s Destroy the Silos!

 The thing progressives MUST remember IF we are to resist injustice successfully and permanently is:
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“Injustice isn’t dismantled until ALL injustice is dismantled.”
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It is natural to be more concerned about specific injustices simply because some are in your daily experience more than others.  Because I am white, female, and middle age, I see sexism and ageism more easily than I see racism. Those are my silos.  On the other hand, my male African-American friend tells me he sees racism way more than any other kind of injustice. Racism is his silo. He didn’t even know there was such a thing as ageism (where you believe age alone makes someone less capable than a younger person therefore denying them equal opportunities).  Likewise, until a few years ago, I had very little knowledge of the extent of injustices against Native Americans.
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But if I only work on sexism and he only works on racism, never supporting each other and others, we have a problem.  First, our numbers aren’t going to be strong enough to change the political mess we have going on.  But secondly, we would be missing what really needs to be changed: the heart. We must stop working solely on our particular silo and begin to fight the root causes of all injustice.
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To do this, we have to think outside of our silos and start working together to change the way people think.  We have to educate those hiding behind their religion – believing it is okay to pay women less.  We have to educate those hiding behind social norms – believing it is okay to deny old people jobs just because of their age.  We have to educate those who think poverty is self-inflicted – believing it is okay to defund public education and healthcare.
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Progressives, let’s destroy the “my silo only” thinking and band together. After all, the same disease causes all injustice.  That disease is the absence of love for others.  When love is absent, hate, fear, ignorance, and selfishness take up residence.  We will never have justice until we have dismantled what has moved in.  And then replaced it with love.  It sounds prosaic, but it is a truth that is as ancient as humanity itself.
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So I encourage you to look outside your own silo.  Develop relationships with those different from yourself. Check yourself to see how you are practicing injustice unknowingly.  Start taking up the concerns of others as if they were your own.

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Check out April’s Book, Dismantling Injustice, for group and individual reading.  She’d love for you to find the words “Follow” somewhere on this page (depending on your browser) and follow her blog too!

Christians Fighting Selfish Battles

Jesus’ hometown was shocked the day he stood in the synagogue and announced his mission:

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to:

  • bring good news to the oppressed
  • bind up the brokenhearted
  • proclaim liberty to the captives
  • release to the prisoners
  • proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor

(Isa 61:1-2).

This was Jesus’ inaugural address. Those of us who are followers of Jesus are to take up Jesus’ mission statement as our own. If we are not out there today working on behalf of the oppressed, the brokenhearted, those held captive by injustice, and those held prisoner without hope or grace, then are we really followers of Christ? No, we aren’t.

I challenge us today to pray over the mission of Jesus. Read each line of the verses above then stop and ask Christ to show you what part you are to take on today. You may be a teacher standing up for a child being left behind. You may be a corporate leader seeking out minorities to hire. You may be visiting a neighbor who is wrapped up in depression or grief. You may be protesting the death penalty, immigration laws, or any number of things – making calls to your government representatives.

If we are not part of the mission of God on this very day, then who are we following on this day? If we are too wrapped up in our own problems to be bothered with Jesus’ mission, then we need to realign our priorities – rethink what a problem really is. The alternative – Christians fighting selfish battles – is devastating to all of humanity.

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Check out April’s Books, the Disorderly Parable Bible Studies, for group and individual reading.  She’d love for you to find the words “Follow” somewhere on this page (depending on your browser) and follow her blog too!

Hitler’s Campaign to Make Germany Great Started Small

Less than a hundred years ago, Hitler rallied German “Christians” into spouting a nationalistic creed, “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer,” that ended with the death of somewhere between 6 million and 11 million Jews.  All too many German Christians supported Hitler.  I started to type that they looked the other way while Jews were tortured and killed, but that would not be accurate.  Christians actually supported Hitler.

But a few Christians resisted.

Hitler started small.  The featured picture of the blog is of a propaganda poster that was placed up at every German school. It shows Jewish teachers and students being suspended from school due to the “economic hardship” that they were putting on the “good” German school system. Notice how the Jewish children and teachers are made to look ugly, while the German children look nice.  This is not dissimilar from our leaders calling Mexicans rapists and murders and literally lying about the hardship they are placing on America.  The truth is that they work harder than American citizens and make less. We are actually benefiting (unjustly, but that is for another post) from having them in the workforce.  Nor is it dissimilar from restricting Muslims from our country in the recent executive order debacle.

I know a man who is a lobbyist for a foreign government. He is not a follower of Jesus, but he has started an organization that supposedly defends Christianity around the world. From the Facebook pictures of himself and his wife at the inauguration, he clearly has the ear of the Trump administration. However, his organization is not about living out the teachings of Jesus. It is about disparaging Muslims. Why? Because his country has literally been at war internally (rich Christians versus poor Muslims) for as long as anyone can remember. It is not a religious war. It is an economic war. And it benefits his “Christian” employers financially to keep Muslims from having equal footing in United States policies. He wants America to be afraid of Muslims — the same way that Nazi Germany wanted its people to be afraid of Jews.

Has Christianity in the U.S. become a nationalistic cult where politicians, leaders, and even clergy use myths about God to convince their followers to put America first over and against all the other children of God? Certainly not all Christians, but generally, the ones that label themselves “evangelical” have.  If you are in this camp, wake up, because nothing could be further from the teachings of Jesus about what makes any part of humanity great.

But Jesus called the disciples (who had been arguing over who was and wasn’t great) to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mat 20:25-28 NRS)

If you want America to be great, then practice loving kindness to everyone all of the time. Love America, but love others just as much.  This is what Jesus taught would make us great.

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Check out April’s Books, the Disorderly Parable Bible Studies, for group and individual reading.  She’d love for you to find the words “Follow” somewhere on this page (depending on your browser) and follow her blog too!

Feeling so helpless!

Feeling so helpless . . .   It looks like the Dakota Access Pipeline is going to go through, the wall is going to be built, and the inner cities will be controlled by military force. My heart literally aches.

In opposition to God, we care nothing about the earth.

One of the earliest and most sacred commands was to care for the earth . . . “The Lord God took Adam and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15).

In opposition to God, we draw lines between them and us.

Paul wrote that “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). Followers of Jesus do not practice nationalism for they are citizens of the Kingdom of God. They love, honor, and serve all people as brothers and sisters.

It feels as though we are on a downward spiral. And yet, the stock market is up – we have hit 20,000 points for the first time. The rich will get richer while the earth and God’s people (all of us) suffer.

“For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of a truth-teller, carry out your ministry fully” (2Ti 4:3-5).

How can we be so wrong? Where is the Holy Spirit — the one who is the wisdom and power — the one who transforms hearts and actions?

Jesus spoke: “When the Father sends the Advocate as my representative– that is, the Holy Spirit– it will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. “I am leaving you with a gift—shalom (wholeness) of mind and heart. And the shalom I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (Joh 14:26-27).

Come Holy Spirit, descend upon us and do your thing. Change us. Inspire us to love and give generously. You are the only hope we have!

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Check out April’s Books, the Disorderly Parable Bible Studies, for group and individual reading.  She’d love for you to find the words “Follow” somewhere on this page (depending on your browser) and follow her blog too!

Supporting Israel: When Christianity becomes Superstition

“I will bless those who bless <Israel>, and whoever curses <Israel> I will curse.” Genesis 12:3

This verse is why some Christians support Israel even when she breaks the agreements that she has made with Palestine and the world.

The United Nations rebuked Israel last week, because what she is doing is wrong.  Israel’s settlements have “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.” Israel is once again taking land that is not rightfully hers. These actions of Israel create instability in the region and are not good for Israel or the world — even making it hard to reprimand Palestine when they react to Israel’s ongoing wrongs with violence.

Let’s say Canada decided to expand into Minnesota, we’d have something to say about it. And we’d hope other nations would back us up. But the US didn’t even do that much. We abstained from the United Nations’ vote and then Obama let the vote stand instead of vetoing it. It was almost the right thing to do.  The right thing to do would have been to vote to rebuke Israel without abstention. But Obama didn’t want to be too hard on Israel – they are our only allies in the region, etc. Yet, in my opinion, Israel must be held accountable to her agreements.

However, some Christians think the above verses constitute a contract with God: “We will support whatever Israel does, because we know that God will bless us for that. We don’t care that Israel has and is continuing to take Palestinian land and treat Palestinian people reprehensibly. We don’t care that Palestinians have the right to protect their land, the right to live and govern themselves, the right to worship God, the right to have all the things that Israel wants for themselves. We will ignore that and support Israel so that God will bless us!”

That is superstition – not Christianity. The followers of Christ know that Jesus loves all the children of the world equally and has charged us with reconciliation – bringing about true Shalom in the world. There is no Shalom – no wholeness, no oneness with God – when Israel is allowed to behave this way while we look the other way.  The God who I know is not going to bless Israel or the nations that help them oppress other people.

Furthermore, there are about 150,000 Palestinians who are followers of Jesus living peacefully with Muslims in Palestine. There are about 500,000 more Palestinian Christians who have fled their homeland because of Israel. Not that it should matter.  We should work for the good of all people putting their needs ahead of our own despite their religion.  But my point is that these same Christians ignore the fact that they are also hurting Christians inside Palestine when siding with Israel. Then again… It is all about getting that blessing!

Where are the Jewish prophets of old?  They would have spoken truth to Israel!  These prophets would have also told those politicians and corporate entities (both in the US and Israel) who are using Christian superstition to their advantage to “cut it out.”

By the way, if you think that your God is planning to curse me because my words call out Israel’s wrongs, then you need a better understanding of God, because the Father of Jesus loves justice and righteousness. He is not the God of superstitious rule keeping that allows one nation to hurt another all the while hoping to get a blessing for themselves! Blessing Israel in this case, means telling them they are wrong and to straighten up. 

Furthermore, there is more to that verse…

“… and in <Israel> all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 12:3 NRS)

God called upon the people of Israel to be a nation that blesses the entire earth by being servants to the world, by living out the Kingdom of God on earth, and by inviting the rest of the world to join with them — not by taking land that isn’t theirs and making the lives of Palestinians hopeless and dismal.

Jesus passed this same calling onto his followers.

Live into the calling that Jesus has placed upon you – promote Shalom across the face of the earth. Live not into the superstition and bad theology of mistaken Christians nor into the greed of selfish corporate entities and politicians.

Let’s put the interest of others (both Israel and Palestine) before our own. It is the Christ-like thing to do. 

Check out April’s Books, the Disorderly Parable Bible Studies, for group and individual reading.  She’d love for you to find the words “Follow” somewhere on this page (depending on your browser) and follow her blog too!

 

When the Rules Don’t Work for You

Last Sunday’s gospel reading was about Joseph, the stepfather of Jesus. He is suffering a disorientation similar to what a lot of us have faced when the rules we have been taught to follow no longer work for us.  If you’ve ever had to choose between the law and love, this story is for you. Below is the gospel reading. You might not catch this disorientation and how it applies to many of us, but trust me on this one . . . I will explain it on the other side.

Matthew 1:18-25: Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

These verses tell us three things about Joseph: he is “righteous,” he is disoriented, and he is “afraid.”

Righteous

To understand his disorientation, we have to understand what it meant in the first century to be righteous. It isn’t a description like “he is nice” or “he is smart.” It is more of a designation. The Hebrew word transliterated is “Tsedek.” In our culture, it carries the honor of being designated as an elder or a wise man, but it’s really more like being called “a law abiding citizen.” Except the law that Joseph followed without compromise was the religious law. And being a Tsedek meant Joseph followed the Torah (part of the Old Testament scripture) without compromising.

He ate nothing that was unclean – no lobster or ham. Even meat that was considered clean had to be slaughtered properly. Utensil and serving dishes had to be cleaned properly too. Just having a regular meal was a production for a Tsedek. He could not work on the Sabbath – at all. He could not hangout with unclean people – no gentiles and no misbehaving Jews. Being called righteous was a high honor, but it was a lot of work too.

Now, we shouldn’t confuse him with being a Pharisee. Joseph had certainly memorized and was practiced at keeping all 613 laws of the Torah, but a Pharisee had even more laws to keep – hundreds more. Pharisees were crazy off-the-chart rule keeping radicals. Joseph was just righteous.

Disoriented

The verses above don’t use the word disoriented to describe Joseph, but they do describe a disoriented man. Certainly part of his disorientation was from finding out that his fiancé was carrying a baby that was not his. I can picture Joseph turning things over and over in his head until he begins to ask God the obvious question, “Why me? I am a righteous man, what did I do to deserve this?”

See . . .  righteous people often think they have a contract with God where they figure out the right rules, take great pains to keep them, and in turn, God blesses them. When this doesn’t happen, it is disorienting. We see an example of this in the story of the Prodigal Son where the older son – the good son – has followed all of the commands of his father. But the father doesn’t give him the blessing of a party. Instead, the father gives a party for the younger son – the bad son – who had abandoned the family and squandered their money. The older son thought he had a contract with the father. He would do everything the father asked of him and the father would bless him. When it didn’t happen, the older son becomes disoriented a lot like I suspect Joseph was experiencing.

The loss of the love of one’s life and the loss of a contract you thought you had with God is disorienting enough. But there is more – this is where it gets interesting!

Joseph, being a Tsedek, is naturally going to turn to the scriptures, the Torah, to find out how to handle this situation. Lo and behold, the answer is right there in Deuteronomy 22. Turns out when your fiancé shows up pregnant and it isn’t yours, “She shall be brought to the door of her father’s house, and there the men of her town shall stone her to death.”

Scripture doesn’t say that Joseph even considered doing this. But if he doesn’t, he will be breaking the Torah and he will no longer be a righteous man. His true North, the Torah, isn’t working for him anymore. This is the definition of disorientation!

What scripture says he does consider is “having her disgraced” – an option society had come up with, perhaps to soften the Torah. Some scholars say that meant her nose would be cut off, or she might be whipped until she passed out leaving permanent scars over her entire body and face, or she might be given poison that would kill her unborn child, leave her infertile, but not dead.

Joseph can’t even do what society demands, much less the Torah. His choice is to be a righteous man and follow the rules that he has followed all his life or demonstrate love to Mary and her child by letting them slip out of town quietly.

For the first time in his life, following the rules – following scripture – doesn’t work for him. He has followed the Torah with uncompromising obedience his entire life.  He has followed the rules of his community too. But now he has made up his mind that he cannot and will not follow them! He will not kill Mary. He will not even hurt Mary.

This is never ever ever supposed to happen. The Law and Love are never supposed to conflict. The Law is supposed to be perfect. It was a gift from God. But Joseph, probably without really realizing it, is ready to sacrifice his old definition of righteousness (following the law) and take on one that is much better (loving God and others). In fact, this is the way God had always meant for it to be. Even in Deuteronomy, love fulfills the law. A famous rabbi once wrote, “Love is the whole law, the rest of the law is just commentary.”

Joseph’s choice is between following the law and demonstrating love. Likewise, what rules, what laws, what expectations of society are you and I holding onto that are keeping us from demonstrating love?

Afraid

It is not until after Joseph has made up his mind up and has chosen not to keep the law that an angel shows up.  The angel pushes Joseph one step further: “Do not be afraid to marry her. She is carrying the child of God.”

Joseph chose true righteousness – to love Mary and the unborn baby Jesus – rather than follow the law.  Because of this, the angel encourages him to go all the way and marry her — and raise the baby as his own.

Teach Your Children Well

Now let’s fast forward. When Jesus, now a grown man, was faced with similar choices, how did he know that love always trumps the law?

  • When a man needing healing on the Sabbath, Jesus chose to heal rather than keep the Sabbath holy.
  • When an unclean woman wanted to touch Jesus and anoint his feet, Jesus chose to let her touch him rather than keep the law and remain clean.
  • When a group of men brought a prostitute to Jesus, he chose to let her go rather than keep the law and stone her.
  • When Jesus received a dinner invitation from a tax collector, Jesus accepted rather than keep the law and hang out with clean people and eat clean food.

When Jesus had to choose between the law and love, how did he know what to do?  I believe God used Joseph, a Tsedek, a righteous man, to teach His son well!!

*****

I preached this sermon on December 17 & 18 at the historic St. Stephen’s Episcopal church in Milledgeville, Georgia.  Thank you to Father David and the wonderful parishioners for inviting me!

Check out April’s Books, the Disorderly Parable Bible Studies, for group and individual reading.  She’d love for you to find the words “Follow” somewhere on this page (depending on your browser) and follow her blog too!

Come Celebrate the Winter Solstice with Me Tonight!

Is it a coincidence that we celebrate the Christ-child’s birth about the same time every year as the winter solstice – the longest night of the year?

I don’t think so.

From darkest night – a long impatient wait – mortals wonder when it will ever end. Then just when we think night will never end, Mary does the hard work of labor, pushing the child into the world. Jesus is here! Finally, it is morning.

The image of the Madonna giving birth to the baby whose job it will be to make humanity’s hearts whole so that we, like Mary, might hold the Creator’s Spirit within us. Jesus promised that this same Spirit, when we say yes to hercoming in and abiding within us, would give us wisdom and power to be a servant of God doing the work of God – caring for others.

Simeon, the prophet, upon seeing the baby Jesus, called out to God describing what he had seen in the child’s face, “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Luk 2:30-32). From darkest night, comes light – a revelation.

God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2Co 4:6).

There is a fragile and luminous beauty surrounding us on this long night of darkness. Waiting. Tenderly watching on until the light shines. Then in the days after, we will watch as each day grows longer and that baby grows older until one day he would say,

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (Joh 8:12).

“Believe in the light, so that you may become children of light” (Joh 12:35-36).

Tonight, join me, let us ponder together the darkest and longest of nights until the beauty of the morning light shines upon us!

Check out April’s Books, the Disorderly Parable Bible Studies, for group and individual reading.  She’d love for you to find the words “Follow” somewhere on this page (depending on your browser) and follow her blog too!

1 In Hebrew, the Holy Spirit is a feminine noun.  In Greek, it is gender neutral.  But I like to sometimes refer to the Spirit as feminine to keep us on our toes, not letting us get too comfortable with a male image of God.

The Diabolical Demise of the Christmas Greeting

Until this afternoon I have always said, “Merry Christmas” when greeting people this time of year. I didn’t know anyone – of any faith or of no faith at all – who minded. No one had ever even hinted to me that it was offensive to them. Oh I had heard about the hullabaloo around it from tv news clips. But, in my opinion, that was the media’s usual manufactured bunch of nothing.

For my part, I was not offended when someone wished me “Happy Hanukkah,” or “Happy Holiday,” or even “Happy Festivus!” I will take a friendly greeting whatever its form! By all means, bring me into your tradition, make me feel a part of what is important in your life, and I will never be offended. Teach me something new!  Likewise, I am happy to invite you to come and share what is important in my life too.

But after hearing Trump on TV this afternoon gleefully making “Merry Christmas” into a political statement of power instead of love — into a political tool of abusing those who are not Christians instead of walking alongside of them, I will no longer say “Merry Christmas” for fear of alienating and hurting the very people I want to offer a greeting to and who I hope will greet me too.

Do you see what is happening?  A man, who by his own admission is not a follower of Jesus, has used the birth of Jesus to alienate all Christians from people of other faiths. Yes, I realize a group of Christians put him up to it.  However, it is diabolically evil for anyone to use the birth of Christ as a political tool – a tool that separates and divides. And, yet, that is what is happening.

God have mercy on us all!

From now on, I have found a pleasing alternative.  I will be wishing everyone “Feliz Navidad” to both separate myself from politicians and Christians who think the birth of Jesus is a political tool to exploit and to also offer a show of support to my undocumented Hispanic brothers and sisters!

Check out April’s Books, the Disorderly Parable Bible Studies, for group and individual study.