on graduation, ordination, and hope for the church

I wrote the following for our church newsletter.  A section of it you may recognize (O, Loyal Reader, you!) from this post a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to share this piece in light of my sister Emily’s seminary graduation and Pentecost Sunday.

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We tend to operate from a posture of fear, don’t we? We make plans, or hesitate to make them, out of fear for what might (or might not) happen. Worry comes pretty naturally to a lot of us. This is especially true when it comes to the church. We love our church – we want other people to come, to visit, to join in – we want other people to realize what a wonderful community our church is.

And yet we fear that we aren’t doing the right things to draw people in – we fear we must follow someone else’s formula to put our fears to rest. We worry, too, because we hear reports, studies, statistics, that tell us the church is dying. We are fearful because we think those studies and statistics might be right: we see fewer people showing up to things, or we see fewer people volunteering for as many committees and activities as they once did. We wonder where the young people are. We worry that maybe the voices outside proclaiming our death are correct.

But friends, the church is alive and well.  The church is changing, but it is certainly not dying. I know this for two reasons: One, I’ve seen the present and future of the church. Two, the church is not ours to kill or keep alive: the church is created and sustained by God’s Holy Spirit.

Many of you know that I traveled last week to Atlanta to bear witness to my sister’s graduation from McAfee School of Theology (affiliated with Mercer University). I’m

The Reverends Holladay, at your service.

The Reverends Holladay, at your service.

kind of a sucker for graduations – I really do enjoy the pomp of the event, and love seeing all the academic regalia – the bright colored robes, hoods, even the puffy hats!  Graduation events are busting at the seams with pride in accomplishment, and hope for what is next. They give me hope. In particular, this graduation gave me even more hope. I spent time listening to my sister tell stories from her three years at McAfee – time spent learning and growing in and outside the classroom. I watched as she smiled through teary eyes saying goodbye to professors who know Emily, the person and minister, as well as Emily’s academic work. I sat in the living room of one of her friends listening to a group of current students and recent graduates laugh together and share stories and dreams for the church and the world. These young people care deeply about church, worship, theology, mission, they want passionately to bring God’s kingdom into fruition. That is their call. That the call for each of us. If they are the future of the church, if all of us together are the future of the church, then the church is not going anywhere.

Last week I paused on Tuesday to remember my own ordination – two years ago that day. One of the things of which I’m becoming more convinced is that we are not – any of us – called just once. We are called and called again, and continue to need moments to recognize and to remember God’s call on our lives. I sat in my office and re-read words written and spoken to me two years ago. I remembered the call to which I responded in Waco two years ago, and recognizing that that is the same call alive in my life among you, First Baptist Church of Lawrence. One of the primary reasons I first sought ordination was my commitment and faith in the Church. I wrote this to my ordination committee:

I do not believe that ordination is about me, or any given individual. It is a moment when a church community calls out persons, responding to God’s call to develop particular gifts for ministry, yes; more importantly it signifies the call of God to continue the work of the church.  Ordination is a promise that the work of God through both individuals and churches will continue to operate towards hope and new life.

More and more I feel called to speak on behalf of the church. I see ordination, in concert with my formal theological education, as a choice to take on the mantle of the church and to accept the great honor and responsibility to speak for the church in and to the world—to be a voice of hope and courage in a world that so desperately needs and wants the church to work for justice, peace, and reconciliation.

After spending time with, hearing from, and participating in the blessing of a new class of seminary graduates last weekend I believe even more that God is continuing to call and bless the work of the church. I feel humbled to be called to this work alongside ministers like my sister and her fellow graduates.

Friends, the church is in good hands. God, indeed, continues to call folks to minister in and among the broken, messy, hurting corners of the world. The Spirit continues to empower all of us to being God’s church.

The church belongs to God – together we humbly call ourselves God’s body. It is God’s work to create, redeem and sustain us all, and to call us together as God’s church. To assume that we could witness the church’s death places a great deal of faith in ourselves, and not in God’s power to work for goodness, mercy, and justice.  Friends, as long as God continues to call all of us to this work, the church will not die.

On this week, this Pentecost Sunday, may we give thanks for God’s call and remember the power of being God’s church.

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Hey, Jack! Be Hap-pay, Hap-pay, Hap-pay. (In defense of Duck Dynasty.)

Y’all. I never thought I’d write a post in favor of Redneck Reality Television. But.

“So, I have a friend who is critiquing Duck Dynasty for being misogynist toward the women in the show. I don’t get it. What do you all think?”

Thus began a text from my dad to me and my sister at 9:00 Monday morning. Totally normal.

But seriously. Let’s talk about this show.

I don’t want to spend lots of space, time and words defending the show or waxing philosophical about the intricacies at what is, at base, a form of entertainment.  And a wildly popular form at that.

Duck_Dynasty_50303First, I am not “Duck Dynasty’s” target audience. I do not hunt or fish. I do not want to hunt or fish. The idea of hunting and fishing sounds worse than boring. I could think of lots of other places to spend money than a Bass Pro Shop. I have never (to my knowledge) eaten squirrel or frog meat. Though, I have eaten deer and I love catfish, to be fair. But squirrel and frog? I’d have to lose a very bad bet. I do not love the idea of living off the grid in a small town in the south with high levels of mosquitos and humidity.

Second, I generally do not like the idea of spectacle, or putting people into the spotlight only to make them the unknowing butt of a joke. MTV does this a lot, and most recently spotlighting West Virginia “hillbillies.” Slate ran an excellent piece linking ‘reality’ television, exploitation and entertainment, which I highly recommend. But that is not what is going on in Duck Dynasty. The Robertson family are not poor, or suffering, and are certainly not the butt of anyone’s joke. If they are, they are in on the punch-line.

That said, the show is one of the funniest things on television. The family members – especially the men – are hilarious to watch, as they interact in the Duck Commander office, hidden in the swamp on a hunt, or around the family kitchen. Yes, they are caricatures in many ways (thanks, of course to clever Hollywood editing), but there is a sense that, even with the edit-driven 20-minute plotlines, these people are real people.  I also get the sense that they didn’t agree to do the show because they want to be famous or garner attention for attention’s sake (watch any episode where Phil, the family patriarch, is featured, and you’ll understand this). What you see is a family committed to one another.  You also watch a family full of really funny people. Call me naïve (you wouldn’t be the first one), but when I watch the show, I believe that an overwhelming majority of the conversations, antics, and stunts filmed would happen with or without cameras present.

Back to the text my dad sent. He was curious what my sister and I thought about whether the show is misogynistic.  I don’t think it is. Do the women on the show “work”? tv-duck-dynasty.jpeg1-1280x960You know, I actually don’t know. Korie, Willie’s wife, helps him run the family business.  Miss Kay, Phil’s wife, has made cooking DVDs, and works by feeding her family every day. The show portrays a fairly stereotypical Southern, suburban dynamic between men and women. The men make the money (thanks to the family dynasty), hunt and fish. The women cook and take care of the kids. Is that misogynistic? No. It’s not really even anti-feminist. I have never gotten the sense that the men expect the women in their lives to cater to them, and the women are absolutely not submissive, deferential spouses and mothers.

The Robertson family gathers for a family dinner – brothers, wives, kids, extended family, even neighbors on occasion – at the end of each episode. Patriarch Phil offers a prayer. At first I wasn’t so sure about this – it struck me as run-of-the-mill, white, suburban piety (to offer an honest, albeit elitist critique). But the more I watched, the more it became abundantly clear that the family meals and Phil’s prayers were authentic expressions of the deep family bond they share, and a faith rooted in gratitude and relationship.

So here’s the thing: Do I share a theology with the Robertson family? Probably not on everything, but we clearly share faith in the same God.

Will I ever hunt or fish? Probably not, but I do respect and appreciate people who can engage in a reciprocal and grateful relationship with the earth.

Do I love being in the humid south being bit by mosquitoes? Not too much. Yeah, that I can’t understand.

That said, for all its humor and ridiculousness, and entertainment value – and there is a lot of it – Duck Dynasty has encouraged me to be more open to a lifestyle that I am much more inclined to write off with a hefty dose of elitism. I laugh so hard my sides hurt, but I also recognize love and respect and humor and faith in ways that don’t look like me and I am challenged to appreciate and honor that.

http://www.youtube.com/embed/Y_0XS1vaX-M

On calling. Two years in.

Two years ago on May 7, folks gathered at Lake Shore Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, laid hands on my shoulders, back, and head. That day a calling that began years Ordinationbefore I was willing – or able – to see it, feel it for myself, bore down with the weight of words and bodies, calling me minister.

Recently I found a stack of ordination-related cards and papers. When I first moved into my office in August I threw these things into a pile on a shelf. As I was moving and decorating and reorganizing I sat down and read, and re-read others’ words both spoken and written to me two years ago. It was a powerful thing to be flooded with the memories of hearing or reading them for the first time. My memories of my ordination service are alternatively fuzzy and razor-sharp. It is incredibly humbling to feel deeply known, and that is what this stack of cards and papers has reminded me – that I am known and loved – and lately, I’ve needed that reminder.

One dear friend wrote these words, “You clearly, more than anyone I know, understand popular culture as a vehicle for spiritual truth and understanding, and I know that your instinct for making God relevant will continue to bless many lives throughout your ministry.” When I re-read those words this week, I felt all the emotion within me well up behind my eyes. It is an incredible gift to have another person recognize our deepest passions, and name where they meet the world’s needs – what Buechner, of course, calls ‘vocation.’

My friend and colleague offered the “Charge to the Candidate” on the afternoon of my ordination. His words are one of the moments from that day that are etched, razor-sharp in my memory. He named the beauty of a calling to ministry – the ways that we are privileged to walk alongside people, to help others see the world, themselves, their faith in new ways. He affirmed, as well, my desire to engage culture, and discover what it means to be made in the image of God, through scripture, art, music, film. He also reminded me, and others gathered that day, the loneliness of our vocation – the loneliness of worry, of disappointment, and of feeling isolated in such an “odd and wondrous calling.” But what has seared into my brain is the sequence of verbs he offered as challenge. He affirmed: “What got you to this place are the same things that will take you to the ends of the earth proclaiming the love of God.” The same could be said for any of us – who God created us to be, does not change – it is through who we are, and who we are becoming, that God works; it is in who we already are that we find our calling.  He challenged me to continue to do these things: Cook. Read. Listen. Laugh. Speak. Run.

How incredibly powerful to re-discover these words and feel called all over again, and to remember how deeply known I am.  The same words of calling I heard two years ago I continue to need to hear, to remember that who I am is a beloved child of God, and I am first, and only, called to be God’s child.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of calling, specifically into the office of ordained ministry. I shirk off any understanding of ordination that requires me to be different from, or better than other people. I most certainly know that I am not. And yet, we do recognize ministers as set apart in some way. There’s something tenuous in calling ordinary, broken people “Reverend.”

Barbara Brown Taylor (of course) brings into focus this troubling distinction. She outlines a difference between our ‘vocation’ and our ‘office’: “Our offices are the ‘texts’ of our lives, to use a dramatic term, but the ‘subtext’ is the common vocation to which we are all called at baptism. Whatever our individual offices in the world, our mutual vocation is to serve God through them. … My office, then, is the church. That is where I do what I do, and what I do makes me different from those among whom I serve. But my vocation is to be God’s person in the world, and that makes me the same as those among whom I serve.” As she writes, all of us, in baptism, are ordained to ministry.  Which is what many Protestant churches say – all are ministers of the church of Jesus Christ. Why, then, ministry? Why ordain? She writes this: “The ordained consent to be visible in a way that the baptized do not. They agree to let people look at them as they struggle with their own baptismal vows: to continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to resist evil, to proclaim the good news of God in Christ, to seek and serve Christ in all persons, to strive for justice and peace among all people.”[1]

And yet, still. Why ordination? In many ways I echoed Taylor in what I wrote to my ordination committee in my statement. I wasn’t seeking ordination because I had been already called to a specific church or position. Rather, it felt like a kairos thing – at that time in my life, at that place, among those people.  This is what I wrote:

This particular moment in my life is marked by great transition, perhaps even greater than I am able to admit. My days of being defined as a student are quickly coming to a close. These past months I have been in the process of discerning the ‘next steps,’ and it is the first time that I’m not looking at further degree requirements.  I am seeking ordination, and I believe ordination is an important step, because it symbolizes the blessing of a church community for continued ministry of the church through the gifts of individuals. I do not believe that ordination is about me, or any given individual. It is a moment when a church community calls out persons, responding to God’s call to develop particular gifts for ministry, yes; more importantly it signifies the call of God to continue the work of the church.  Ordination is a promise that the work of God through both individuals and churches will continue to operate towards hope and new life.

More and more I feel called to speak on behalf of the church. I see ordination, in concert with my formal theological education, as a choice to take on the mantle of the church and to accept the great honor and responsibility to speak for the church in and to the world—to be a voice of hope and courage in a world that so desperately needs and wants the church to work for justice, peace, and reconciliation.

And I still believe that. I believe that my calling – whether I remain in the church office, or find my way to another ‘office’, as BBT would say, is to speak on behalf of the church and the world, and continually find ways to make both relevant. In essence, to blur the lines between sacred and secular so much that the line ceases to exist.

In the words of Linford Detweiler (Over the Rhine): We’re all broken, and it’s all sacred.

Amen.


[1] Barbara Brown Taylor, The Preaching Life, 30-31.

Marks of our church, “Wonder” (sermon, 5.5.13)

First Baptist Church, Lawrence, Kansas
Revelation 21.1-6

A few months ago I offered an invitation to wonder. It was on Epiphany – the entrance from the season of waiting into the season of light. We wondered together at a story of bright stars guiding strange men to a baby. We wondered at the absurdity of the conclusion of our nativity story. We wondered together at strange gifts, from strange men, for an even stranger occasion.  We wondered together at what it means to hear all of this and return home by another way.

I would like to invite you to wonder again – this time, in the context of being church together.

Wonder is something that comes pretty easily, pretty naturally to children. All you need to do is to sit down, eye-level with a small child and watch the world through wondertheir eyes for any amount of time. As they discover the icy-cold of snow for the first time, the sour punch of a lemon for the first time, the beauty of butterflies on a spring day. Or as you introduce them to your favorite books, movies, characters – the wonder and curiosity with which they approach the world gets lost on us pretty quickly.

I invite us, though, to think about the ways that we can claim and re-claim a sense of wonder into the very life of our church – how do we understand wonder as integral to our faith?

I challenge us today not only to think about wonder within these walls, but to reclaim childlike wonder in all that we say, think, and do. How will we approach our lives with a sense of awe? Are we seeking mystery in the world – are we open to the mysterious ways that God has created, God is present, that God is at work in our lives and our world?

We could have done this with each of our marks so far, but there was intention in attempting some clear distinctions between Welcome, Worship, and Work. By some way of conclusion, I would like to illustrate briefly how Wonder permeates all that we do. In some sense, wonder indicates the posture in which we begin all of what we do – as God’s children, we begin with wonder.

Welcome:

By beginning with a posture of wonder we welcome the divine into our midst, even in the most surprising ways. In some sense, when wonder infuses our entire being – as individuals and as a community – we are never surprised to find that the Spirit of God is moving among us in all that we do.  In our welcome to others, we also welcome a spirit of wonder, as we seek to get to know them, and welcome them as family.

We are not a community that lives by rigid doctrines or creeds – some of that is through our Baptist identity – but I believe that is also the character of the church. We welcome wonder in our midst – in the form of questions, in the form of openness to God’s leading, in the form of doubting. Most of all, I believe we introduce and foster a sense of wonder in how we welcome and tell stories. There is no greater means of wonder than in the embrace and wide-eyed hearing of story. And whether this be the biblical story, our own stories of faith, struggle, joy, grief – we welcome story among us. We wonder together at the story that God continues to write among God’s people gathered as First Baptist Church.

Worship:

Wonder is an act of worship. Not only ought we come to our worship each week with a sense of wonder, but outside this room, outside this building, whenever we approach our world with a sense of awe, a sense of curiosity, that is worship. When we reflect on our own lives in wonder – and sometimes this wonder is sorrowful, sometimes it is joyful – we are worshipping. One of the church fathers, St. Anselm approached his theology with the phrase “faith seeking understanding” – meaning that we don’t approach our faith from a purely intellectual assent. Nor does our faith assume complete certainty. Rather, in our action of loving God, in our faithful response to God’s grace, we seek understanding – to understand ourselves, who God has created and called us to be, and the world around us.  When we echo the cry of the Gospel: “I believe, help my unbelief!”[1] All this seeking, this wondering is an act of worship.

Work:

It takes effort to be okay with our questions. It takes effort to be honest with ourselves, with each other, and even with God – to tell the truth and tell our stories with integrity. It seems counterintuitive, but it is easier to seek certainty, to ask questions expecting concrete answers. But the work of being human is resting in the wonder of acknowledging the world is vast, that God is ineffable, and yet, God cares about each one of us; God created each one of us.  As scripture promises, we are all fearfully and wonderfully made.

I love stories of God’s creation and God’s re-creation. Genesis is at least my second favorite book in scripture for this reason. Likewise, the passage from Revelation is one of my favorite passages in scripture. And not because I have some kind of strange fascination with the end-times.  (I don’t.) This passage is commonly used in funerals, as a comfort in times of grief. And certainly its promises of an end to death, an end to pain, mourning and crying, the promise of God wiping all our tears away – are immensely comforting words.

But wonder with me at the totality of the promises here.

We often think about heaven as being ‘out there’ – above us – in some other realm. God’s home is in the clouds, with the angels.  Listen, though, to John’s vision. Instead of us being raised to heaven, heaven comes to us; God descends to us. John’s vision is that God’s home will be among mortals – here, on a reconciled and redeemed earth. This is good news for all of creation. We could perhaps use this as an opportunity to expound on the implications that John’s vision has for our concern for the earth – how we ought to take care of it, to participate in God’s redemption of the entire created order.  And there is some of that here.

But let’s sit down for a bit and observe John’s vision. Let’s pull up a chair and take in all the promises that God has for us.

Wonder at how these words – some of the last words in our scripture – bring the entire biblical story into beautiful conclusion. In the beginning God spoke the entire world into being. God put the humans among animals in a garden – and God called all of it good. We know how that piece of the story went. We know how our own desires for power, control, knowledge, our own desire to possess the future, each other, the world – those pervert and destroy God’s good earth and the goodness God intends for us in relationship.  And yet we know how throughout scripture – throughout the story of God in relationship with people – that God remains faithful. God continues to enter into loving covenant relationship with us. We celebrate the story of a God who became human, a God who called us friends, and calls us to follow into the ways of love, grace, compassion. We proclaim hope and faith in this story.  And here, in John’s vision of a new heaven and a new earth, we observe the covenant, promises, love of God come to completion.  Once again God speaks this new creation into being – in verse 5, God proclaims, “See, I am making all things new.” It is a promise of relationship once again – this time we are redeemed, the world is redeemed, and we have the assurance of living fully united with our Creator.

Wonder with me at this vision – John invites us to ponder a world made new. He invites us to bear witness and trust in this vision.  Wonder with me at this God we worship – the God who creates and re-creates – and marvel that this same God seeks to make a home among us.  This is a life-sustaining message. Wonder with me at how we might be changed and assured if we truly claim this message for ourselves.

Do you see yourselves as part of this story? You are; we all are. We are in the midst of a story, and we proclaim that God is the author – God is the author of our lives, our deaths, our salvation, and our re-creation. God’s story is a story of resurrection. Hear the power of resurrection in a new earth – where all things and all people are made new. Wonder at the mystery of God’s story – as we hear the story drawing to an end in the book of Revelation, we marvel that God’s ending is just another beginning.[2]

Do you understand the world we live in as in process of being redeemed? It takes a holy imagination – an imagination “…nourished by the word and sanctified by the Spirit to connect what is visible and invisible – the reconciliation of heaven and earth – seeing the past, present, and future of all things through the light of God’s glory in Christ.”[3]

This holy imagination helps us envision of a new earth – the promise of Revelation that God will choose to descend – to bring heaven here – and make a home among us once again.  It is our sense of wonder that does, in fact, acknowledge this vision. It drives us to put work into maintaining our Food Pantry, and providing our Deacons Fund, and hosting Family Promise.  We imagine a world where all are fed, all have homes, all are safe and secure – so we work to contribute to that vision of God’s Kingdom – not after death, not in some other realm, not “up there” – but here, on earth. On earth God will make a home among us.

Sacrament

The proclamation and promise of God’s Kingdom on earth comes near to us today as we celebration communion.  I see no better opportunity to talk about wonder as a mark of the church than on a day when we share together in the bread and cup of God’s covenant with us. One way we can do this is to talk about the idea of sacrament.

We Baptists tend to run pretty far away from talking in terms of sacraments – we prefer language of symbol, memorial, maybe ‘ordinance’. We tend to approach the idea of sacrament with no small amount of suspicion, trading ideas like transubstantiation for mere symbol.

But what if we didn’t? What if we reclaimed some of the theology behind the idea of sacrament? I would like to challenge us to hold the idea of sacrament a little closer today. We tend to cast away this language partly because of our Reformation heritage – Reformers like Martin Luther, John Calvin, Zwingli, rejected the Roman church’s perversion of grace and sanctification – rejected the idea that salvation can be sold or that we needed mediators to the divine. Lost in some of that Reformation language, as it has been traced down to our own Anabaptist heritage is the language of sacrament.

The word sacrament has a couple of derivatives – one is thanksgiving – in our practicing these actions, we find demonstrable ways to return thanks to God – for presence, for grace, for love.  Another, is from the Greek mysterion – meaning mystery.  We practice the sacraments – the actions that trace back thousands of years – and acknowledge the mystery of our participation.  Sacraments, by many theologians’ rendering, are a visible sign of an invisible grace – meaning they are the ways that we participate in, that we take action, to remind ourselves of God’s grace – to experience God’s grace.

The idea of sacrament was originally intended to convey the “presence and purpose of God make known in Jesus Christ.” Through the formation of church doctrine, we have the idea of sacramental presence – the presence of God in the world, embodiments of grace – codified into sacraments –actions or observances that are intended to enact grace.[4]

Therefore, I do not think we are mistaken to consider baptism, communion, ordination, baby dedications, weddings, as sacramental actions, as sacraments – though perhaps we are committing a specific breed of Baptist heresy.  These are visible signs of God’s grace.  If there were not something powerful in the immersion under water, in the breaking of bread and drinking from the cup, in the laying on of hands, in blessing and committing to care for the youngest among us, in the exchanging of rings and vows, if there were not something powerful, some grace felt in these actions, then why perform them at all? Why participate? We do them, not because of mere symbol, but we do them because they connect us in powerful ways to ancient tradition, and to the mystery and ineffability of God’s free grace. Through participation in these moments, in these ceremonies we bear witness to the working of God’s Spirit among us – in much the same way that God’s spirit has been at work through the ages. These are actions of the church that weave together the thanksgiving and the mystery – they are at once our response to God’s grace and God’s call to be community, and they are operative: in our participation we become grace-filled communities created by God, redeemed by Christ, and sustained in the Spirit.

How do we take this idea of sacrament and let it inform our everyday lives? We can shy away from language of sacrament because it sounds too Catholic, but I believe we lose a significant piece of the mystery of our faith when we do that.  To live sacramental lives opens us up to the presence of Christ in our midst. And in being open to that, we open ourselves up to be sacraments – to be the presence of Christ in the world.  This happens any time we are open to the grace, love and compassion that marks the Way of Christ. Any time we live and move in the world out of grace, love, and compassion, however imperfectly, we too become sacramental presences in the world. Take a moment and wonder at the power of that. If we really believed that, if we really behaved in that Spirit, how much might we be transformed? How much might the church be transformed? How much, then, might our world be transformed?

In a few minutes we will gather around the table and re-tell the ancient story. We will speak words that remind us why we gather around the table – we talk about Jesus taking, breaking, blessing, and giving bread to his friends. And likewise sharing the cup. We call it the body of Christ and the blood of Christ.  Of course, again, as Baptists, we mean this symbolically.

However, I would like to challenge us, at least for this day, to re-claim some of this sacramental theology in our observance of communion. I would like to challenge us to wonder at the mystery of breaking bread together, of sharing a cup together. Wonder together this day at a God who chooses to dwell among people, and who chooses to call us ‘friends.’ Wonder together at a God whose primary motivation is love, compassion and care – and who calls us, empowers us, to the same. Wonder at a God who demonstrates these things most clearly through a meal. Wonder with me at the power of this meal we share together – but not only in this loaf of bread and this common cup, but each time we gather together around any table to share a meal with others – that we meet Jesus in the faces of one another – that we recognize God’s care for and God’s love for all of us. We recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread, and we recognize Jesus as we feed each other.  Reclaim with me this day the wonder of that mysterious grace, and that mysterious community.

What if we believed in the things we proclaimed from the table – that like the bread and the cup, we ourselves are taken, broken, blessed and given – that we are made new, wrapped up in God’s covenant together, sent out to be the very living presence of God in the world? It’s hard to believe because it takes a sense of wonder. It would require reclaiming some of the childlike openness.  It takes a holy imagination. How would we approach this table today, in all its awkwardness, and crumbs, and drips, with a sense of wonder, expecting to receive something of the divine Spirit? Moreover, how would we leave this place today, ready to participate in Heaven on earth, trusting that God makes all things new – that God’s very self seeks to make a home among us – God’s beloved?

Rabbi and Mystic Abraham Heschel once wrote: “Never once in my life did I ask God for success or wisdom or power or fame. I asked for wonder, and [God] gave it to me.” The entry point, he writes, to spiritual awakening, to deep and lasting experiences of God’s working in our lives, is not in worldly means, like success or fame, though the world often tries to convince us otherwise. Rather it is in keeping our eyes, our hands, our hearts open to the wonders that God is working, everywhere, in the mundane, in the ordinary, turning our lives into an integral part of the sacred story that God is writing.

This day may we ask for wonder.


[1] Mark 9.34

[2] Eugene Peterson, quoted in Michael Pasquarello III, Feasting on the Word, Year C, volume 2, 467.

[3] Pasquarello, 467.

[4] Daniel Migliore, Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Publishing, 2004. pp. 274-282.