The Three Wise (Wo)Men

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 2:1-11.

A couple months ago I shared an evening meeting with a family from the church and I admit my attire was quite casual. As we concluded our time together one member of the family stopped to study my shirt – a teal t-shirt emblazoned with a silhouette of the state of Florida and the words nevertheless she preached.

Nevertheless she preached…always up to something, aren’t you!?”

Yes. Yes, I am.

Students of Scripture know that women are not always cast in the best light in our sacred text; therefore, I cling to the moments that women are in fair light and seek the moments of hope and redemption for our Scripture sisters awaiting transformation.

Women were among the first to dance and sing of God’s deliverance through the Red Sea.

Women were the first witnesses to the resurrection.

Women were among and traveled with Jesus and his disciples.

Were women among the magi?

Were women…magi?

We have a tradition of three kings – king referring to male figures – because of the three gifts provided to the Christ child – gold, frankincense and myrrh.

And yet…

There could have been more gifts. There could have been more kings. Kings could have been a collective noun to group together male and female royalty.

There could have been women among the magi.

There could have been women magi!

I believe these imaginings are valid and worthy. Girls and women have a valuable place in this world. God created Eve alongside Adam. Women and men together have walked and weathered and wondered the journey of faith with God from the very beginning.

The worship of Jesus by the shepherds symbolizes the Jews worshipping God’s Son. The worship of Jesus by the magi symbolizes the Gentiles worshipping God’s Son. The Savior of the world is not just for some; the Savior of the world is for all. And imagining the presence of women worshipping Jesus in his nativity sends a powerful message of inclusion of the continuous presence of women in our narrative of faith.

“On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage…and having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road” (Mt 2:11a and 12). I trust the magi left praising and dancing. Upon returning to their homeland, I trust the magi witnessed to what they experienced and who they worshipped.

I trust that women were among the magi…that women were magi…and that nevertheless she (they) preached. From the Garden – from the Red Sea – from Jesus’ nativity – from the empty tomb – from today – for always.

Prayer: “O God, you made of one blood all nations, and, by a star in the East, revealed to all peoples him whose name is Emmanuel. Enable us who know your presence with us so to proclaim his unsearchable riches that all may come to his light and bow before the brightness of his rising, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.”*

*“Epiphany,” The United Methodist Hymnal 255.

Advertisements

Committed to the Journey

Sunday’s Scripture ~ II Kings 2:1-12.

This Sunday is Transfiguration Sunday in the Church Year; it is the final Sunday of the Epiphany Season before Ash Wednesday, which begins the Season of Lent. It is fitting that Transfiguration Sunday closes the Epiphany Season, a season of ah ha’s about Jesus, our Savior. In the Season of Epiphany we learned

  • The Magi – Gentile Kings from the East – presented Jesus with gifts. They were welcomed at his nativity – a sign of the inclusive nature of the Kingdom that began with Jesus’ birth. All would be welcome to worship him – inclusive of age, nation, and race.
  • In the Jordan River, following his baptism, God declared Jesus as his Son, the Beloved. With Jesus, God is well pleased. After the example of Jesus, we, too, are to be baptized; we, too, are to become daughters and sons of God. We are beloved to God. With us God is well pleased.
  • And now on Transfiguration Sunday, we hear God’s voice again. Again, God names Jesus as God’s Son, and God gives the following instruction, “Listen to him.”

On a mountainside before Peter, James, and John, Jesus changes. His clothes become dazzling white. Glory shines upon his face. Moses and Elijah join him at his sides; Moses, representative of the Law and Elijah, representative of the prophets. And we hear God tell us to listen to Jesus – to listen to how he fulfills the Law first given by Moses and to listen how he brings a new understanding of reconciliation, a primary subject of the prophets, as our Savior prepares to make the ultimate sacrifice to secure humanity’s reconciliation to God forever. Peter – Jesus’ disciple, Jesus’ student – wants to stay on the mountainside, wants to build houses for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. Peter’s offer suggests that he wants them all to stay where they are…and yet Jesus’ journey was not meant to culminate on that hillside, but on Calvary.

Jesus, with Peter, James, and John, head back down the mountain. In doing so Jesus commits to the journey ahead of him – to the teachings he will offer; to the miracles he will complete; to the betrayal, denial, desertion and death he will endure. As the disciples follow him, Jesus bids all disciples – bids us – to follow him. More ah ha’s – more epiphanies await us as we journey with Jesus from glory into glory.

Jesus is committed to us and this journey. Let us commit to Jesus and journey with him to and beyond his cross.

Prayer: “O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”*

*from the Book of Common Prayer according to the use of the Episcopal Church, 1979, page 217.

Messiah: Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Zechariah 9:9-10.

Happy New Year! This Sunday we hit the ground running in the Church/Liturgical Calendar  by celebrating Epiphany – the arrival of the Magi from the East to present gifts to the Christ Child.

Many folks take time before the New Year to set resolutions. I have not had much success with resolutions – I resolved to learn how to operate a curling iron a few years ago and that still has not happened. However, in the spirit of running into the church/liturgical calendar, I set 17 goals that I would like to hit the ground running with and accomplish in 2017:

  1. Begin each day with intentional prayer and devotional time with God.
  2. Complete 2017 sun salutations – that is six each day.
  3. Ride 2017 miles on my bike.
  4. Take (a minimum) of three yoga classes each week.
  5. Read 2017 pages for pleasure and 2017 pages for professional development.
  6. Cook 17 new recipes with Andrew.
  7. Drink 64oz of water daily.
  8. Live simply so that I can give more.
  9. Keep my weekly commitments to self-care, Sabbath, and date days.
  10. Put my phone away one hour before going to sleep.
  11. Keep a daily gratitude journal, recording three actions/experiences/learnings for which I am grateful each day.
  12. Make the first move in connecting with family and friends.
  13. Be bold in asking for help.
  14. Talk less; listen more.
  15. Stay current with the news.
  16. Make my donation cut to Beautiful Lengths.
  17. In all things – situations, people, responsibilities – seek hope.

Three hundred and sixty five days sounds like an abundance of time…but lived…it seems to fly. I look forward to the joy I will experience and the lessons I will learn about myself and others as I pursue these goals in 2017. The pursuit and the accomplishing of these goals will be and is complete gift – a gift from God to me to be my best self to the glory of God on earth.

I am excited to worship with the Tuskawilla Family to begin 2017 on New Year’s Day. We will gather for Morningsong at 8:30am and our regular 11am service will again be at 10am this week. As you prepare for worship and the coming new year, perhaps consider any resolutions or goals that you would like to make. Together let’s hit the ground running and run the race that God has placed before us. Let us run with purpose and with excellence.

Prayer: “Creative God, you make all things new in heaven and on earth. We come to you in a new year with new desires and old fears, new decisions and old controversies, new dreams and old weaknesses. Because you are a God of hope, we know that you create all the possibilities of the future. Because you are a God of love, we know that you accept all the mistakes of the past. Because you are the God of our faith, we enter your gates with thanksgiving and praise, we come into your presence with gladness and a joyful noise, and we serve and bless you. Amen.”*

*”Prayer for New Year’s Eve or Day,” The United Methodist Book of Worship 294.

 

We Shine!

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Isaiah 60:1-6

A phrase often heard – and an action often encouraged – in my yoga studio is “Shine your heart.” To shine your heart means that you draw forward your heart cavity, which is your sternum and upper rib cage, through your shoulders as if a beam of light began shining from your heart onto the wall next to you, the ceiling above you, or the person in front of you. Shining your heart rotates your shoulders back and down, which brings them into proper alignment over your hips and creates space and broadness across your shoulders.

Why is this phrase often heard and action often encouraged? Because my yoga teachers see so many people walking with hunched shoulders…I see so many people walking with hunched shoulders. These persons, their hearts are not shining forward; their hearts are receding, their lights mere flickers. They are bracing for impact. They are in survival mode. They have only just endured the last moment. They are fearful of the next moment. Their shoulders reflect their burdens caused by life’s innumerable weights.

When we walk with hunched shoulders long enough, our bodies begin to accept that shape as our natural shape. When our bodies accept that hunched shape as natural, it cannot be reversed, and we live with its effects permanently.

When I first returned to yoga I walked as someone that rounded forward my shoulders. My body physically manifested the stress I carried. I thought that the way to protect my heart was to shield it rather than shine it. I experienced physical discomfort in drawing my heart forward, in rolling my shoulders into proper alignment.

After years of practice I am growing in comfort with shining my heart. It took time to cultivate this practice. It took courage to face what was causing me to shield rather than shine. It took several brave steps towards vulnerability.

I had to let things go physically and emotionally. I had to forgive. I had to be forgiven. I had to walk away from burdens. I had to open myself to shining and to light.

This week we will ring in a new year that is full of promises, possibilities and potentialities (as the song goes). With the close of one year and the beginning of another we are afforded the opportunity to let things go, to lessen and release burdens, to forgive and be forgiven, to commit or resolve ourselves to shining our hearts rather than continuing to shield them.

Folks that shield their hearts know well the “darkness [that] covers the earth and thick darkness the peoples” (Isa 40:2a). “Arise and shine!” Isaiah says (Isa 40:1a). Christ’s light and life has lightened our burden. Our Christ has revealed a new way forward. What way forward is that for you in 2016? What commitments or changes is God calling you to make so that you can shine your heart in offering to God and shine God’s heart in offering to others?

I find that when I begin with gratitude – for where I have come from, for where I am going, for the people and places and experiences I’ve had along the way – I am more able and wanting to shine my heart.

Steve Harper, a retired pastor and professor in the Florida Conference – and a continuing mentor to many! – shared this reflection as we move to the new year, “Thinking this final week of 2015 about influencers: the people who have influenced me most have not spent their lives identifying the darkness, but rather have devoted themselves to intensifying the light.”

“We shall see and be radiant”says the prophet (Isa 40:5a). We shall see and be radiant as we devote ourselves to intensifying Christ’s light.

With renewal and rejoicing we move on, we move forward, we move towards 2016.

In this New Year, may we open up, invite in, and grow. May we choose light. May we choose life. May we shine.

Prayer: “O God, you made of one blood all nations, and, by a star in the East, revealed to all peoples him whose name is Emmanuel. Enable us who know your presence with us so to proclaim his unsearchable riches that all may come to his light and bow before the brightness of his rising, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.”*

*”Epiphany,” The United Methodist Hymnal 255.

The Plan

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Ephesians 3:1-12

This Sunday the Tuskawilla Community will celebrate Epiphany – the 12th day of Christmas – the end of Christmastide.

(Disclaimer: Yes, Sunday, January 4 is only the 10th day after Christmas, but it’s okay.  We will sing Christmas and Epiphany hymns this week!)

On Epiphany we remember the magi coming to the Christ child bearing exquisite and expense gifts. On this final moment of Jesus’ nativity we begin to hear the laments that will wail from Golgotha. He will not wear a crown of gold, but a crown of thorns. His body will not be sweetened with frankincense and myrrh, but prepared for a borrowed grave.

As the carol sings the magi “traverse(d) afar, field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star.” They journeyed from the East and had obstacles – some easy and some not so easy – to overcome on their quest to see what lay under the Bethlehem star. The magi did not give up. The magi did not turn back. The magi journeyed so that they, too, might worship the newborn King.

2014 closes in a little more than a day. Each day is part of a year long journey where we, too, face our own fields, fountains, moors, and mountains. Fields are be those spaces where we feel rooted or grow or harvest. Fountains are those spaces where we are cleansed, refreshed, purified, and made new. Moors are those spaces where the ground is not so smooth, where the vegetation is overgrown so visual confirmation of sure-footing is obscured, and where stinky, sticky mud can bog us down. Mountains are those spaces of trial and of triumph; mountains are those spaces where we draw close to God and then re-enter our routine landscapes.

I am looking forward to 2015 through reflective eyes gazing on 2014. I can identify my fields, my fountains, my moors, and my mountains. I am thankful for each moment of my journey, not because they have helped move me closer to the Christ child, but because each of these moments were Epiphanies where Christ found me. Jesus planted me in and harvested me from the fields, washed me in the fountains, unstuck me from the moors, and met me on the mountains. With each moment I was drawn closer to the Bethlehem star, but not withheld from worshipping the Christ until I finally arrived. I worshipped as I walked. This year has been a moving meditation.

I invite you to reflect upon your 2014. What are your field, fountain, moor, and mountain moments? How have you worshipped as you have walked? What have you learned? How will you invite Christ to continue shaping you from the path of 2014 as you journey into 2015? Perhaps these reflections will lead you in discernment of what you will resolve for your relationship with Christ in the coming year.

As I reflect I resolve to lean into hope rather than worry. I resolve to claim positivity and release negativity. I resolve to further breathe into the inclusive nature of Epiphany – that Christ came for all people – that Christ seeks each one of us – that Christ our Lord makes us one and is Lord of all.

What will you resolve? What will you apply from your traversing in 2014 that will help you with your Christ-led meditation in 2015?

Prayer: “O God, you made of one blood all nations, and by a star in the East, revealed to all peoples him whose name is Emmanuel. Enable us who know your presence with us so to proclaim his unsearchable riches that all may come to his light and bow before the brightness of his rising, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.”*

*”Epiphany,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 255.

Jesus: The Early Years ~ Happy Epiphany!

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 2:1-12

At Reeves the children have been anxiously anticipating the arrival of the Wise Men since the beginning of Advent.

Yep…that was 6 weeks ago…

I don’t have many pet peeves when it comes to Scripture…but the “harmony” that tends to happen with the Nativity story is one of them.  Yes, I know that nativity sets come complete with wise men.  And yes, the wise men have been in my personal nativity scene since I set it out during Advent.

But

I know that the wise men arrive at Epiphany rather than showing up with the shepherds the night Christ was born.

So to teach this lesson to the kiddos at Reeves we played “Where’s Waldo Wise Men” each week during the Children’s Moment since the beginning of Advent and we will conclude it this Sunday.

Can you guess where the wise men will be this week?!?!

Weekly the children received a “text message” from the wise men – yes…they are quite cutting edge and technologically advanced – that included clues about where they were on their pilgrimage to Bethlehem.  Each week the wise men made their way closer and closer to the creche.

This week they arrive and present their gifts to the Christ child.

As I think of the wise men presenting their gifts, I am reminded of a field trip I took during elementary school to the Polk Theatre to view the play The Gift of the Magi.  I remember expecting the wise men to be there…I knew all about that story.  But this was another story of love and giving…and more so of sacrifice…and I think it is equally fitting for us as celebrate Epiphany.

(You can read the full text here…I will summarize.)

Jim and Della loved one another very much.  Their love was their greatest treasure.  They did not have very much money, but each wanted to give the other a special Christmas gift.  Della had long beautiful hair; she decided she would cut and sell her hair in order to have money to purchase Jim a chain for his golden watch.  That night when Jim returned home he was astonished to see Della had cut her hair.  He handed Della a slim package – her Christmas present.  She opened it to find two beautiful hair combs.  He confessed that he sold his watch to purchase the combs.  Della confessed that she cut and sold her hair to purchase his gift, the watch chain.

Each made a sacrifice for one they loved out of love.

From the wise men we have the tradition of giving and receiving gifts.  From The Gift of the Magi we learn that true wise men [wise people] are those that give freely and wholly and lovingly and sacrificially, not withholding anything.

Reflection: We see again and again throughout Holy Scripture people giving so that others may have and we see the blessings that follow this giving and receiving.  In this new year what gift might God be leading us to give our partners, our children, our family members, our co-workers, our neighbors that we will experience greater blessings?  How might God be leading us to live a life marked by giving freely and wholly and lovingly and sacrificially, not withholding anything?  How might God be calling us to continue the legacy of the magi all year long?

Prayer: Teach us how to give, O God, as you give, openly, freely, generously, and then to find, as we always do, that you have replenished what was given, and more besides; for your openness, freedom, and generosity are far more than we have any right to expect, and we thank you, through Christ our Lord.  Amen.  ~ by John Killinger