Annunciation

          Gabriel said, “You will conceive in your womb
          and bear a son...and he will be great...”


Already the Word is spoken
deep in your soul.
Already the light dawns within you,
light of heaven, vast and outflowing,
the Loving One loving in you,
God, growing in you,
holy, earthly, miraculously plain.
Let it be.



          Mary said to the angel, “How can this be? I am only a girl!”
          The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
          and the power of the Most High will overshadow you”

                         —Luke 1.31-35

It is yours, but not you.
It is within you, but from beyond.
This light is not yours to deny.
This blossoming is not yours to resist.

Let the Spirit come upon you,
the power of the Most High overshadow you.
Be still, and let it be.
You don't have to understand.
Just say yes.
 

   —December 18, 2017

Sanctify me

         The God of peace will sanctify you entirely,
         and keep your spirit and soul and body
         sound and blameless
         at the coming of the Beloved, Jesus Christ.
         The one who calls you is faithful, and will do this.

               —1 Thessalonians 5.23-24


God,
I wait for so much more than Christmas,
more than the miraculous birth:
I await my own birth.
As you poured yourself into this world,
and it was never the same again,
pour yourself into me,
and change me forever.
Birth your light in me,
your Word made flesh in me,
Set me to your purposes
and sustain me in your way.
Make me a living sign of your coming,
a vessel of your presence,
an instrument of your delight.
I open my heart to you.
Come, and make me your holy one.
 

   —December 15, 2017

Not political

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

          The spirit of God the Holy One is upon me,
                    because God has anointed me,
                    and sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
          to bind up the brokenhearted,
                    to proclaim liberty to the captives,
          and release to the prisoners;
                    to proclaim the year of God's favor,
          and the day of vengeance of our God;
                    to comfort all who mourn.
                              —
Isaiah 61.1-2

This is not political.
God's agenda is not political; it's relational.
The promise of Advent is not political; it's spiritual.
God comes to judge the forces of oppression
without dilution, without caveat
that there are good people on both sides.
God comes to destroy the status quo,
to upend our world and its injustice:
to raise the lowly and bring down the mighty.
This is not political. It's moral.
It's about health care, mass incarceration,
racism, sexism, earth care and peace.
It's about empowering the disenfranchised,
not blaming them. It's about respect, not abuse.
Lying, abuse and child molestation,
demeaning people, threatening war,
robbing the poor to pay the rich,
the worship of money, sex and power,
these are not political. They are evil.
What some want to do to our government,
to our diplomacy, to common decency,
God wants to do to the structures
of privilege and exclusion. They are God's target.
This is not politics. It's salvation.

The gentle sweet good news of Advent is
that mountains and hills will be leveled,
valleys will be filled in,
and rough places straightened out,
and it is unwise to be standing in the way
of God's bulldozers.
This may involve some elections,
some protests, some laws.
It will involve an altogether new Empire.
But it's not political.
It's cosmic.

Open your heart to the little Bethlehem star,
supernova blossoming in us.
And take it to the streets.

   —December 12, 2017

Our kind

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.



The shoppers pass the drunk
(they are not related),
pass the little window display
of the poor baby in the manger,
and find their place
among their kind at the mall,
where there are no homeless,
only waxen, distracted shoppers,
far from the others,
separating themselves by class and style,
whatever distance they can conjure,
who go on trying to divide and divide,
while the little baby goes on
joining and joining.

   —December 11, 2017

Like a shepherd

         She will feed her flock like a shepherd;
                  she will gather the lambs in her arms,
         and carry them in her bosom,
                  and gently lead the mother sheep

                                 —Isaiah 40.11


In your pain and uncertainty
         she will come to you.
In your struggle, your healing,
         she will carry you.
In your recovery, your unfolding,
         she will feed you.
In your brokenness and guilt,
         she will hold you.
In your leading, your creating,
         she will gently lead you.
In your loneliness, your disconnection,
         she will gather you.
In your choosing, your standing firm,
         she will guide you.
In your beauty, your resilience,
         she will delight in you.

Lift up your hearts.
         See, your God is coming.
 

   —December 8, 2017

Upending

         In the wilderness prepare the way of the Holy One,
                  make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
         Every valley shall be lifted up,
                  and every mountain and hill be made low;
         the uneven ground shall become level,
                  and the rough places a plain.
         Then the glory of God shall be revealed,
                  and all people shall see it together
                                             
—Isaiah 40.3-5

Hills and valleys of money and power:
prepare for them to be leveled.
Mountains of privilege and exclusion,
unreachable heights, insurmountable summits:
God surmounts them.
Even the strongest are condemned.
Valleys of racism and sexual violence,
of incarceration and abuse, bear God's sign:
“Clean fill wanted.”
Don't count on the mountain to stand on,
or the valley to hide in, the prophet says.

The glory of God is not for the few,
the gated, the elevated,
but for all people when,
no longer separated by hills and gullies,
we are finally together.
Together.

Mind the carols you sing this dear little baby.
He means to upend your world.
Herod will fall to the dream of a peasant girl.
The emperor's throne will become a pit.
Even the deep grave will become
a mountaintop experience.

Don't build your house on a treacherous slope.
Upending is coming.
 

   —December 7, 2017

Prepare a way

         In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
                  make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
         Every valley shall be lifted up,
                  and every mountain and hill be made low;
         the uneven ground shall become level,
                  and the rough places a plain.
         Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
                  and all people shall see it together
                           —Isaiah 40.3-5


God, prepare your Way in me.


What valleys in me need to be lifted up?
         Raise those low places.



What mountains in me need to be brought low?
         Dismantle those mighty things.



What rough places in me need to be made smooth?
         Smooth them out.



How might your glory be revealed in me?
         Let it shine.               

   —December 6, 2017

Comfort ye

         Comfort, O comfort my people,
                  says your God.
         Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
                  and cry to her that she has suffered enough.

                           —Isaiah 40.1-2

You who ache, hear this word.
You who long, you whose hopes lie wounded,
whose hearts are broken,
hear this word:
Blessing and comfort to you,
and assurance that God is with you
in infinite tenderness and healing.

We hear this word, we bear this word,
as we sing and pray,
as we shop and decorate.
We are always mindful of this:
this word is for you who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death:
you who survive the slum,
who endure the abuse, the trafficking;
you who are profiled, bullied, enslaved,
abused, tortured or forgotten;
you who rage at the evil of the powerful
and are not satisfied;
you whose diagnosis is not good,
whose job is not appearing,
whose marriage is a wound;
you whose people are called no one,
refugees, prisoners, outcasts,
who are too poor or queer or honest for us,
you whom the world rejects, God embraces—
we sing to you.

If this comfort is not for you,
then we sing it in vain.
Unless what we do will bring comfort to you
we believe nothing.
 

   —December 5, 2017

Advent

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.


This world is God’s good creation; yet all is not well. We are a broken people. As the year descends into darkness and winter approaches, we feel in our bones the coldness and need of the human family. Evil abounds. Cruelty is policy. Injustice reigns. Racism, greed and sexual violence crowd the news. Hope flickers among dark shadows. We cry to God with Isaiah, “O, that you would tear open the heavens and come down!” (Isa. 64.1).

But in our longing we do not just gaze at the sky. We get ourselves ready. We don't just wish; we prepare. We trust God is at work in the midst of the mess with a transforming, life-giving power. Like Mary, we say Yes to that power unfolding within and among us. We become the change we want to see in the world. We become people of peace and gentleness, of love and courage. We become candles shining confidently in the darkness.

The Advent season is a time not just to ramp up to Christmas, but to open up to God. It's a time to let God’s light spark in us, to let God’s Presence deepen in us. It’s a time of stillness, a time of prayer, a time of opening.

As we wait in the darkness, God’s light dawns in us, and we become people of joy. We are ready for new life. We are ready for Christ to walk into our living rooms. We are ready to bear Christ into the world. We become God’s love, enfleshed, vibrant, and powerful. Though we may fear people's resistance, we are not the only ones who are crying, “O that you would come!” We bear love and grace and justice into a world that awaits us with hope. Welcome, Advent.
 

   —December 4, 2017

Awaken me

       What I say to you I say to all: Keep awake!
                  — Mark 13.37



God of the small, the subtle, the unimportant,
God of the vague, the dark, the ambiguous,
open my heart to your coming.
Open my eyes to the little signs,
my ears to the soft murmurs.
Slow me down to listen and hear.
Keep me low to look and see.

Awaken me to the losses that are blessings,
the wounds that are openings,
the weaknesses that are empty mangers.

Wake me from the stupor of busyness,
the daze of desire,
to witness your drawing near,
to behold your presence,

even in this ordinary moment,
this feeble prayer,
this beating heart.

   —December 1, 2017

The coming

         The sun will be darkened,
                  and the moon will not give its light,
         and the stars will be falling from heaven,

                  and the powers in the heavens will be shaken
                           —Mark 13.24-25

It sounds terrible and threatening,
but it's nothing new, is it,
this ancient vision of climate change
and power struggles.
Jesus says look at the tree:
you can see summer is coming—
but in this case you don't know when,
like someone coming home
at an odd hour unannounced.

We've painted this picture
with a touch of dread and panic, haven't we?
The end is coming and heads are going to roll.
But it's spring, not winter.
It's the homeowner, not a thief.

The end is already upon us, always has been:
our own self-destructiveness.
The interruption is not the calamity:
that's already in place.
The interruption is the Beloved,
who comes into our dissolution,
intervenes in our collective suicide,
re-directs our plunge toward oblivion,
and most shocking of all,
tenderly accompanies us
even through the worst of our withdrawal.

It's not the end; it's the clay being reshaped
by hands with a vision
for who we can be
before we are fired in the kiln
into durable vessels.

Give up your misgiving.
You've been given every gift to await the coming.
Welcome the it.
Watch for every moment
the unseen hands
lay themselves upon you.

   —November 30, 2017

We know everything

We know everything. We read a lot.
We understand how things work.
We've mastered the calculus,
foreseen the vectors of cause and effect,
and applied ourselves
to the the necessary lies and habits,
the anonymities,
the anesthesia of busyness,
the closure of certainty.
We already know everything,
everything worth knowing, anyway,
so much that nothing else can get in,
nothing worm its way into
our philosophical offshore account.
We are secure,
while under—
                                under that something
we didn't know of,
didn't know there was anything under,
something swells, something in darkness
moves, draws near, gathers,
like stellar dust coalescing into a planet.
A tenderness honeys in an open field.
A mystery leans toward us
as if to touch us, as if to whisper:
         You have no idea
         how much I want to be with you.

 

   —November 29, 2017

Keep awake

         Keep awake.
                  —Mark 13.37

The Beloved comes,
obviously out of place
but unnoticed, sneaky,

slipping in through a side door
disguised as a service worker,
a delivery boy,

not an elaborate costume
but it works every time,
the bag lady,

lurking in the heart's empty lot,
the street a palimpsest of angels
and their uncanny sense

of the divine among us,
eternal Word made stinky flesh,
tenderness in rough places,

a child's inept call
to wonder and compassion
that every once in a while

disturbs us,
rends our heart,
and we wake.
 

   —November 28, 2017

A simple prayer

God fill me today,
and take over my life.
I pray only that you guide me
and that I listen.
Give me clarity to sense your delight for me
and the will to do it.
Give me only the strength to do
what you would have me do today.
Lead me, keep me, sustain me.
Grant that I my live this day
in humility, gratitude and trust,
with courage, hope and love.
Amen.               

   —November 27, 2017

Black Friday

Tall ships sail the November sky.
Brown leaves run from the wind,
hide behind stone walls.
A half moon backs up into the sky
to see if it can make it all the way across.
I notice.

Curtis is in prison.
I'm thinking of lots of people in prison,
some for being black or gay or angry or truthful.
A mother clings to her child in a UN tent,
a girl is hauled out of the dark room again.
All those: in treatment, getting a transplant,
Parkinson's, depression, divorce just finalized.
I see you.

Spirit stirring in me, my new self,
my regrettable outburst, my forgiveness,
the grace given, the opening, the bud,
my horizon still moving on,
those who come with me.
I know.

I hear there's something
at the mall
but I see nothing there,
nothing.

It's all elsewhere.
It's all here.
                

   —November 24, 2017

Giving thanks

You who are the Mystery at the heart of all things,
Source of all that is,
to you we give thanks.
For the gift of Creation, and the wonder of this world,
we thank you.
For for every creature and the web of all living things
to which we belong, we thank you.
For the gift of life, and the miracle that we are here today,
we thank you.
For gifts of sight and hearing, the gift of movement and touch,
and for all the wonders that we behold, we thank you.
For all the people who have blessed us, we thank you.
For all our loved ones, for any who have taught us, helped us,
loved us, accompanied us or prayed for us, we thank you.
For the food we eat, and all those around the world who provide it,
we thank you.
May our gratitude overflow to others,
especially those who do not have what we do;
may our thanks take form in giving
and in working for the world you intend for us.
O God, fountain of our souls and earth of our lives,
we thank you,
and pray that we may always live in humility, gratitude and joy.
Amen.

   —Thanksgiving Day, 2017

Fat sheep

         I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep.
                  —Ezekiel 34.20

God notices our injustice,
and despises it.
God sees our systems that favor some
and exclude others;
it is God whom we exclude.

The Realm over which Christ reigns
is no heaven in the clouds,
but this trodden earth,
this very place where we foul the water
of our companion sheep,
this world which Christ will dismantle
and rebuild, re-make like the potter and her clay.

To be loyal subject of this Sovereign
it will not be enough to doff our hats
and hurt each other. Piety will not suffice.
The divine passion for the others
will rule our hearts and actions,
lead us from prayer to justice,
enlist us in the royal work of the new Realm.

The fat sheep like it as it is.
The lean sheep are remaking the world.

   —November 22, 2017