Sunday, November 30, 2014

If God Can Find a Corner Small

The URL for this blog comes from a hymn by Martha Spong, written a couple of years ago. It happens to be an Advent hymn, so I thought I'd post about it on this first Sunday of Advent.

If God can find a corner small,
a town constricted as a tomb,
to house the sweeping Life of all,
we too can find a little room.

I have two weeks until finals and, if I'm counting right, six assignments due by Wednesday. The past few days I've been on Thanksgiving break, so I took the opportunity to travel, especially since Hungary's Christmas markets have just opened. When I've been home, I've been pretty worn out. Despite that, I spent several hours yesterday and today cleaning.

I don't generally enjoy cleaning. I'm usually comfortable with some level of mess, and I don't like that things tend to get messier before they get cleaner. But Advent is about preparing the way, about every heart preparing Him room, about finding a little room. Yes, that room is primarily spiritual, but our faith is inherently active and physical, not solely spiritual. We think of Lent as the cleaning season, but preparing a way is more than pushing everything else out of the way. That always causes problems later. So I cleaned. I knew that in order to find and prepare proper room in my heart, I needed to make physical room. I needed to sweep and do dishes and sort through the huge piles of paper that always manage to accumulate when I'm not looking.

Christ is "the sweeping Life of all." Christ is Emmanuel, God with us. God found a corner small, a cave in a crowded town, to come to us. We too can "clear the chaos and the clutter, clear our eyes that we may see all the things that really matter, be at peace, and simply be" ("Come and Find the Quiet Center"). We can find a little room for God to truly be with us.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Raise the Song of Harvest Home

Happy Thanksgiving!

"Come, Ye Thankful People Come," is  a traditional Thanksgiving hymn, and its first verse is directly related to the harvest and being thankful. After that, though, it keeps the harvest language but turns eschatological.

Come, ye thankful people, come, 
raise the song of harvest home; 
all is safely gathered in, 
ere the winter storms begin. 
God our Maker doth provide 
for our wants to be supplied; 
come to God's own temple, come, 
raise the song of harvest home.

We move from fall into winter. The weather grows colder, the colors fade from the trees, and it grows darker. Everything seems a little greyer, a little bleaker. So we sing. We sing to our God who is Light, in whom we are children of Light.

Our call as thankful people is to come and sing to God, God who is not only our Maker but the Maker of all creation and the One who provides for us. We sing because God creates. We sing because God provides. We sing in praise of our Lord. We sing in gratefulness to the One who watches over us. We sing to a God of seasons, a God who helps us weather the storms, a God who welcomes us into God's own temple, where we can dwell forever in the presence of the Lord.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Links from the Past Couple of Weeks

Some of these posts are older, but here are a few things I've read over the past two or so weeks:

April Fiet's sermon on Christ the King Sunday and Psalm 95:
All about Christ the King Sunday as New Year's Eve, God extending love, grace, and invitation to us before any action of our own, and how to live as a response in gratitude. Also, the sermon ends with quotes from "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling." (The whole sermon actually reminded me a lot of some of the Wesley I've been reading recently.) Some quotes:
  • "Today, as we are on the cusp of a new year, we are invited to come and worship. We are invited to come and humble ourselves before our God and King. And, in so doing, we are invited to be more like the One we worship. We are invited twice before we’ve had the opportunity to do anything else."
  • "We are being re-membered by God, and we are called to be agents of re-membering here on earth."
  • "If we were to dream big dreams and believe that where God calls God equips, what risks might we take as we live as children of the King?"

Steven D. Bruns on Scripture reading in the early Church
"For the early Christians, Scriptures were read at length in the context of worship, they were seen as a unified voice spanning God’s work in Israel through the life of the Church, and they were interpreted together, always pointing to Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of every passage."
I have mixed feelings on the Lectionary, but the fact that each week it includes an OT reading, a Psalm, an Epistle passage, and a Gospel passage to be read together is one of the things I like most about it. What Bruns talks about here is part of why that's valuable. My favorite line from this post is this: "The early Church completely integrated the Old and New Testaments and created a poetry to the faith."

Alastair Roberts tweeted about liturgy
Liturgy is about practicing and living our theology; it is the "work of the people." This was in the context of liturgical theology vs systematic and biblical theology, but it's good commentary on what liturgy actually is and why it matters. The best quote from this series of tweets: "All the streams of theology converge at and flow from the font."

Drew McIntyre on Advent outreach
This starts off as a response to the Greater New Jersey Conference's announcement about commuter train communion, but then there are ten ideas for Advent outreach, ranging in originality, audience, and scope. Also, Drew quotes "I Come With Joy," which is appropriate both to discussions of communion and outreach.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Crown Him Lord of All

Today is Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the Church year! It's a fairly new feast day, but there are a lot of fantastic and appropriate hymns. (My Christ the King playlist is about two hours long.) So here's "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name," by Edward Perronet (mostly, at least).

(The lyrics I use here are not actually how the hymn would be sung in any version, but I like both Coronation and Diadem, and different parts of the lyrics repeat in the two versions, so I just used the lyrics without any repetition.)

All hail the power of Jesus' name!
Let angels prostrate fall;
bring forth the royal diadem,
and crown him Lord of all.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Link Dump: Recent Reading (and Listening!)

Here are a few of the things I've been reading online, as well as something to which I've been listening! All the links are below the fold with a little (okay, a fair bit) of commentary.

Sunday, November 9, 2014


I stood in a field full of red poppies – coquelicots, I told myself, you're here to speak French! -- and there, I didn't feel anything.

But then I stared across a field of tall greenness, right next to a forest, and there I felt it. It looked like peace. It looked like growth. Blue skies, green plants, bright sun, a little shadow from the forest trees. It was a beautiful countryside in summer.

We walked into the forest, and there we found a different truth, one where, more than 90 years later, we could still crouch in trenches from La Grande Guerre.

From the field you would never know.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Communion of Saints

In memory of Lindsey

I started going to worship service with my parents when I was four or so, and we always went to early service. I was one of the only children in early service, which meant that, when I was a little older, I did a lot of helping in service - reading, praying, helping with communion, even a little ushering.

I also grew up sitting in front of an older couple who had been members of the congregation for a long time. They always said hello to my family and always said hello to me, and they also always noticed if I had a new dress. It was a small thing, but it meant a lot. They were part of church for me. For a long time, though, I didn't know their names.

At some point, they changed seats to sit at a particular angle to the lights because it helped the man see better; his eyesight had been getting worse. We still always said hello, though.

Every year, the church gave Bibles to the third graders on a Sunday in September, and on the same Sunday, the church honored those who had been members of the congregation for at least fifty years. Each third-grade Bible had the third-grader's name on the front, and then inside the front cover there was a note from one of the 50+ year members.

I Sing a Song of the Saints of God

I sing a song of the saints of God,
Patient and brave and true,
Who toiled and fought and lived and died
For the Lord they loved and knew.
And one was a doctor, and one was a queen,
And one was a shepherdess on the green;
They were all of them saints of God, and I mean,
God helping, to be one, too.

Today is All Saints Sunday. We remember all of those who have died in the faith of Christ, celebrate their lives, and recognize that there is one communion of saints. The Lord calls people from all walks of life to be the Chrch and serve God in everything they do. They toiled and fought and lived and died, all in fairh, all in the love of God, and throughout their journeys God was with them. They are the ones on whose shoulders we stand. They taught us about God, they loved us, and they showed us how to live our faith. They encouraged us, mourned with us, and rejoiced with us. Without them, we would not be the people we are; without them, the Body would be weaker.

They were not perfect, but they are the saints of God by the grace of God, and by that same grace we can join them.