Christmas Season 2019, Year A: The Gospel Passage – Reassurance comes!

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.
All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.” (Luke 2:1 – 5)

There is an interesting story in our family. It happened like this.

I had just found out I was pregnant, with a boy. We were on our way to family in Pennsylvania when we had car problems – major car problems. The car won’t run problems. A nice state police officer saw us on the side of the road and made a special phone call to get us towed somewhere safe. It took some time because it was (wait for it) Christmas Eve. We and our car were towed to an inn in (wait again) Bethlehem, PA! But our family gathering was a couple of hours away, so we were stuck at the inn . . . . waiting. Christmas eve, pregnant with a boy, stuck at an inn in Bethlehem!

The Lord God protected us that day – that everything went smoothly and there were people there to take care of us and insure our safety. Our car was repaired so we can travel back home. It makes a wonderful story.

“While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

Not as dramatic as the Christmas story. No herald of angels! But reassurance came to us. A sense of peace was around us, looking out the window of the motel that was not charging us to stay in the room – warm, dry, and safe. We did not know what to expect after being stuck out on a busy highway. But there was room for us in the Divine’s care. That care and reassurance is something I have felt over and over in the past years, and still feel now.

“In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Verses 6 – 14)

Fast forward some four years; I am sitting in a worship service and the Divine taps me on my shoulder and says, “I am inviting you to step forward into a deeper relationship with me.” Shades of Mary and the annunciation. I wish I could say I was like Mary and was willing from the first. But I was scared, unsure what this meant, and not sure I was ready. But the Divine did not wait, but gave me a very fast initiation into a deeper spiritual life. And it was, and is wonderful! Reassurance comes quickly when you (finally) say to the Divine, “Yes, I am willing.”
“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.” (Verses 15 – 18)

And when you have been reassured, it is easy to share that sense of peace and hope to others.

“But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” (Verse 19)

Some things, though, are too deep and wonderful to be spoken out loud. However the heart and spirit praise the Lord God the Divine in silence and wonder.

“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” (Verse 20)

This Christmas season, beloved reader, I hope and pray you have your own reassurances from the Divine – whatever the circumstances may be. And may you give voice and tell others, in our own way, what the Lord God has done for you. Selah!

Advent Season 2019, Year A – First Sunday of Advent: The Old Testament Passage – Timings & Ponderings

Titles and timings get tricky around this time of year. As I said very recently (just in the last few days maybe, or it might be something I will say/you will read in the next few days), Thanksgiving and Advent are racing in tandem. Thanksgiving usually gets here first but Advent is not far behind. Or at least, the first Sunday of Advent – which is my focus right now. You know, before Thanksgiving!

“The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it.” ( Isaiah 2:1-2)

What is spoken concerning the Lord God the Divine is often spoken in terms of hopes and dreams – less often in terms of actual facts and tangible signs. As I have gotten old I have learned the value of making plans based on facts and tangible signs, but basing my hopes on dreams and insights.

“Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Verses 3 – 4)

Of late I have been thinking about juxtaposition of current events and biblical insights. And how that can both inform and deceive the other. I find myself becoming more vocal on certain issues; not so much political issues but social issues. The times though tend to mingle and swirl the social and political. Ironically, that is sort of a biblical phenomenon. In the both the social (and political) realm it is important to know what you believe and believe in. And who & Who informs that belief. And before I go off on any tangent or digress, let me sum up my thoughts by saying . . . .

O house of Jacob [and the whole Christian community], come, let us walk in the light of the LORD!” (Verse 5)

Selah!

Season After Pentecost – Reign of Christ Sunday, 2019 Year C : The Gospel Passage – A final story that talks about the end . . . before we start at the beginning again

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.” (Luke 23:33)

My mind thinks back to some of Jesus’ disciples who said they wanted the places of honor on his right hand and left hand. Jesus said, to paraphrase, you don’t know what you are asking for and you could not bear it. I have read what people who are knowledgeable about such things have said what the experience of crucifixion would be like, and I am pretty sure I could not bear it physically either. But Jesus did bear it, and in a way that shows the grace and endurance that he had – imbued to him through the Lord God.

“Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing.” (Verses 34)

It was not just the physically suffering; it was the emotional and psychological torture as well.

“And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” (Verses 35 – 38)

Each of us, beloved reader, have our weak points. Aspects or traits that are vulnerable to scorn, ridicule or suffering. Being human Jesus might have had his own vulnerable points. But being Divine, maybe he did not. I would like to believe that he did. Not because I believe or want Jesus to be weak; it would comfort me, however, to know that Jesus understands when I feel weak and vulnerable. This might be something I come back to in the coming Lectionary Year. For now let us bookmark this pondering and move on in the story.

“One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Verses 39 – 43)

Today, Jesus said; that very day this thief and criminal would be in heaven. Does that mean that Jesus went there before his resurrection? Possibly. But I think the point and understanding of this is that the criminal would be forgiven of his sins simply on the confession of belief in Jesus. Death, at least human death, was coming to all three of them within hours. Jesus had faith as to what would happen to him. He said as much to the criminal who asked to be remembered. And the criminal also had hope for his future beyond this life.

When you, beloved reader, are pressed beyond what you feel you can endure (and remember the professing criminal was suffering physically as much as Jesus), do you have hope for what the outcome will be?

We are coming soon to the season of Advent. A season that is typified by waiting in anticipation. There is “good” waiting, like waiting for Christmas. And “bad” waiting, like waiting for death. A lot depends on what is on the other side of the waiting. Think about that as you think about the men hanging on the left and right side of Jesus. Think too about where your hopes lie. Shalom!

Epiphany 2019: The Gospel Passage – The Coming of the Magi

Back on Monday Dec 31 I shared with you the poem “The Queens Came Late”. With the RCL highlighting Epiphany I wanted to give time and space to the Magi. I have the meme below posted on my Facebook page. It and the poem presents a different perspective on this day an season, being gender inclusive.

I also found a more humorous take on the coming of the magi. It amuses me, and presents a more lighthearted look Epiphany.

But my seeking and finding lightheartedness and amusement does not mean I do not take the coming of the Wise Men seriously. I join with biblical authorities who discerned that Jesus coming for all people is an important event and needs to be represented in the church and liturgical year.


“In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” (Matthew 2:1 -2)

When something important happens we make time and space to attend to it properly. Biblical geography and biblical scholars tell us that the Magi came from a great distance and took the time to travel to Bethlehem. The poem “The Queens Came Late” tells us the same thing. But not everyone deems important things the same way.

When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'” (Verses 3 – 6)

This tells us two things (if not more); no one yet – since it was written by Isaiah – had been born that would be considered a shepherd to the people of Israel. That it was these “chief priests and scribes of the people” who made the connection between this prophecy and the infant Jesus.

“Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” (Verses 7 – 8)

Be suspicious of Herod, beloved reader. If he so earnestly wanted to worship the child, why did he call them in secret? Read further to have your suspicions confirmed.

“When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.” (Verse 9)

It is interesting, is it not, that the star seemed to wait for them to finish their business with Herod before it lead them on. Granted, I do not know much about stars and constellations, but they seem to move independently from the doing of humanity.

“When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Verses 10 – 11)

Wasn’t this foretold also? Sure it was – we read it Monday. Well, not the myrrh. That was not in the verses from Isaiah. Myrrh, as I remembered and briefly researched, is associated with both healing and death. Myrrh is also mentioned in the hymn “We Three Kings”. Go ahead and look it up – I’ll wait.

“And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.” (Verse 12)

While the coming of the Magi may signify the coming of Jesus the Messiah to the Gentiles, their visit also had other significance. And set about a series of events in the wake of Jesus’ birth. And like Mary, I ponder all of these things in my heart. Selah and Shalom!

Season After Pentecost (Proper 29[34]) – The Gospel Passage: Jesus invites Pilate to reflect

Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” (John 18:33 – 35)

I was curious about verse 35 and Pilate’s question. Some commentators say the Pilate is insulted by the question, that anyone would think he is a “slave Jew.” Other commentators believe he is asserting his independence from Jewish thinking and influence, and he will judge the matter without prejudice or influence. In either case, Jesus’ question prompts Pilate to look himself and his involvement in the proceedings.

“Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” (Verses 36 – 37)

Jesus invites Pilate to further reflect on what makes a king, and what power does a king command. And how long or short a king might be in power based on the circumstances. Okay, so admittedly one can interpret and imbue at great deal into Pilate’s and Jesus’ statements, questions, and answers. Maybe Pilate is not a thinker or philosopher. Maybe he is just a politician looking to solve problems and up-rises. And if Pilate does not take up Jesus’ invitation to reflect that does not mean we should not.

What is the nature of power? How do you wield it with integrity and honor? How long should power last? Can you make it last? When should power give way to submission? More pondering – what is the nature of truth? Is there different types of truth? Is truth relative? How does power and truth connect and interact? The questions, reflections, and ponderings could go on. That is one of the reasons I like pondering – taking a question or situation and looking at it from all sides and angles. I would invite you, beloved reader, to ponder will and let truths arise from sincere pondering. Because, beloved reader, it is after pondering truths that the nature of true and lasting power can come. Selah!

Trying to break through the fourth wall

Every once in a while I just want to interact with you, beloved and gentle readers. Most times I have commenting from behind/through the scripture for the day. While I may cover a small variety to topics, mostly it is related to scripture passages and my perspective on them through the lens of my faith beliefs. However as I have said on a few occasions, there is more to my life than just scripture. There is family and friends, work and leisure, reading and watching television – you get the idea. I am more than the words on this screen. And you, beloved and gentle readers, are more than the screens that you are reading this one. It is ironic than that it is only through our comparative screens that we can relate.

And it is only a one way connection – me talking to you. The irony is further compounded by the fact that recently I had to move off my Facebook profile, which is geared to me as a person,to the more regulated Facebook page that I have set up. Yes, the page that I had thought I would close down and then abruptly canceled its deletion. I still need to fine tune the settings to get the correct balance between transparency of intent and control of content. And no, Facebook tutorials have not been helpful.

Switching from one to the other reminds of the period of time and decision making I went through when I moved my blog from “A Simple Desire” to the current one “Pondering From the Pacific”. That was a decision that I mulled over for quite some time. It meant going from a high traffic situation and blog to a much more low traffic and smaller scale blog. I still check on the blog every once in a while. Yes, it is still active. I do not post on it anymore, but there are still people who visit it every day. In fact, irony upon irony, it sees more activity than the the blog that that I post one now! Oh well.

It would be nice to get feedback. When I was actively writing the blog “A Simple Desire” it accumulated an impressive amount of comments on the blog site itself. While “Pondering From the Pacific” was on my Facebook profile I would get comments occasionally. I have not gotten any comments yet on the Facebook page. I do not know for sure if interested readers could comment on my Facebook page. That is part of why I need to check the settings. I do know readers can post comments and feedback on my blog page. That does not happen much either. Like I said, communication is pretty much one way. I could wish it would be otherwise.

Some years back there was someone who commented quite regularly on my “A Simple Desire” blog. It got to the point where we were holding extensive conversations through the blog posts. I think we finally moved it to email. But things happened, and she stopped writing. I think she was going through some difficult times and she found me to be a good outlet for experiencing her feelings and processing her situation. But then things got awkward and she stopped writing. It was one of the very few times the “fourth wall” was broken through.

The term “fourth wall” comes from theater. The three walls are the back and two sides of the stage. The fourth wall, stage front, is the fourth wall that the audience can see through to the action. Breaking the fourth wall means the actor talks directly to the audience. But in my case it would mean that you, my reader are responding back to me in give and take. The “fourth wall” is that you can see and hear me, but I cannot see nor hear you. And I would like that. I freely admit that the idea of sending out my words and thoughts into cyberspace has great appeal. But at times if feels like a vacuum where there is no response or reaction back.

That was actually one of the reasons I started the Facebook page “Enthyme Counseling”, to set up an arena where people could post and respond back to me. It seemed as if the Facebook profile was just a factoid sheet about me. I was out there commenting on other people’s profiles/pages but it was again a one way street.

At the risk of bringing in faith issues and shutting down the conversation, it seems to me that our relationship with God (and the Divine) is a lot the same way. We pray up/out to God, but we don’t often get direct communication back. I guess heaven has a fourth wall too!

Well, this has just been my attempt to open up a dialogue. I will press “publish” and it will almost instantly appear on my blog and on my Facebook page. I would welcome and encourage you to send something back to me. Break down the wall and let’s talk! Shalom!

The Final Step – At The Source

“We wanted to update you about an upcoming change Facebook is introducing to their platform, and which affects how you may share posts from your website to your Facebook account.

Starting August 1, 2018, third-party tools can no longer share posts automatically to Facebook Profiles. This includes Publicize, the WordPress.​com tool that connects your site to major social media platforms (like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook).

Will this affect your ability to share content on Facebook? It depends. If you’ve connected a Facebook Profile to your site, then yes: Publicize will no longer be able to share your posts to Facebook. On the other hand, nothing will change if you keep a Facebook Page connected to your site — all your content should still appear directly on Facebook via Publicize. (Not sure what the difference is between a Page and a Profile? Here’s Facebook’s explanation.)”

I got the above message from WordPress.com today. Set me skittering to my Facebook PAGE to stop the delete process. I had some days back announced that I would be deleting my Facebook page because I was not using it much. Look up the meaning of the word “irony”.

It has always been my desire (no, not “A Simple Desire”) to have my writing published and/or publicized. And just because Facebook was changing did mean I was going to let this blog of mine lose its profile and presence! So I figured out (at least I think and hope I did) how to switch from these blogs being posted on my Facebook PROFILE to my Facebook PAGE. Time will tell if I am successful. If you have read two other announcement like this from me, I have been very successful! (Yeah me!) If I have not been successful (here comes more irony) you will never see this blog post at all. Wish me luck!