Have you ever met anyone who didn’t like the Carol “O Come, O Come Emmanuel?” I haven’t. It seems to me that every Christian I’ve ever known enjoys singing it. But I wonder if you know the story behind this Carol?
I don’t know about your hymnal, but in the current Episcopal Hymnal, there are dates in front of each verse indicating when each verse is to be sung. What do you suppose that’s about? Well, I happen to know the answer to my own question, so here goes.
Originally the words to this Carol weren’t meant to be sung at the same time, in the way we usually sing hymns. The words come to us from 9th Century monasteries. In the evening of every day, year round, monks would come together to pray a particular set of prayers known in some places as “Vespers.” In my tradition, it’s called “Evening Prayer.” These 9th Century monks would pray Mary’s...
Next Sunday is Advent 3, which means there are only two more weeks until Christmas. Advent is the season when we wait the coming of Jesus with eager anticipation. As we wait for the annual celebration of the birth of Jesus our Lord this year, may we reflect on St. Paul’s words in I Thessalonians 5:16-24, where he writes these words of profound thanksgiving:
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you…May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.”
You might ask how we could do anything eagerly or experience profound thanksgiving, because when we look back on 2020, we see a world plagued by COVID and a country deeply divided, just to name two real downers of today’s reality.
In the middle of...
In today's blog, I'm going to make a further attempt to unpack Brene Brown's quote from last week's blog. Here it is again, for your convenience:
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” The Gifts of Imperfection, p. 6
What does it mean to "own our story?" Most of us live our lives from day to day with whatever is on our to-do list, our work schedules, our leisure time. Is there a "story" in there somewhere? An interesting saga with a theme, a plot and characters? Countless authors and researchers tell us "Yes, that is the case. You do have a story, whether you know it or not."
Dr. Brene Brown of The Daring WayTM, tells it like it is for all us humans, based on her years-long, intense research on shame and vulnerability. She states in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, that on the inside of each of us, we contain an infinite power – the power of our light.
Spiritual abuse attempts to squash that light out of existence, casting us back into shame and disconnection. She says that the secret to rising above all that misery lies in owning our story – not hiding it somewhere, making believe that it’s not worthy of sharing. That’s extremely difficult when we have been hurt badly.
Be that as it may, we each do have a light within that has been given to us by the Lord our Beloved Maker and Sustainer. The story of our lives and the difficulties we have sometimes in keeping the light going, is of the utmost value. Trauma tries to make us believe the opposite. We want to hide our light and our...
Today I’m thinking about a favorite Scripture of mine from 2 Corinthians 4:5-7, 15. St. Paul wrote to the people in the churches he founded and continued to visit for as long as he possibly could. His words ring true for us as well. Here’s the passage:
“What we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us…For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.”
This is the sum of what St. Paul preached. His words still echo in our hearts today. The truth that he’s preaching rings deep chimes,...
“Come, follow me.” Jesus gazed intently at those who became his disciples, and said those simple words: “Come, follow me.” There was something in his demeanor, in the way he spoke, that caused Andrew and Peter, James and John, and all the rest to immediately drop what they were doing, in order to follow this unusual man who had suddenly appeared in their lives.
Jesus gazes intently at those in every generation who become his disciples. He gazes intently at you and at me. Sometimes we follow him instantly. Sometimes it seems we have to struggle to let go of whatever it is, that would keep us from following him – including the struggle of traumatic abuse in our church. But we are still drawn to those words. “Come, follow me.” We will find our healing when we follow Him even – or maybe especially when we are tempted to believe that our pain is more powerful than the Presence of the...
A month ago, we celebrated the day that is set aside each year to remember St. Francis of Assisi. His Feast Day is always October 6th. He loved animals as part of God’s Creation. The way we celebrate St. Francis’ Day where I am, is to host a Blessing of the Animals. People bring their beloved pets and participate in a service that we conduct in our church courtyard. In one part of that liturgy, I lay my hands on each animal and give them a blessing.
There is a prayer that is associated with St. Francis. You may be familiar with it. I pray it every morning as part of my morning devotion. It’s a lovely prayer. If we were to successfully spring it into being in our own life, we would be one of the saints, for sure.
But it’s so packed with difficult challenges that few of us attain even a small part of it consistently. Living that prayer becomes more difficult when we have been spiritually or...
In my church tradition (the Episcopal Church,) we always celebrate the first Sunday of November as “All Saints Day.” It’s a day when we remember Christians who have lived before our lifetime – Christians who have followed Jesus to the nth degree. Some of them, with great gusto and joy, have brought new understandings of what it means to live the kind of love that Jesus told us to live.
Others have suffered deeply, either with persecution and imprisonment, or have finally been executed for their faith. Still others have lived into a “saintly life” in the presence of the kind of suffering that comes from profound grief or bodily aches and pains that come from some physical infirmity – all while clinging to the Lord to carry them through.
We remember them all on All Saints Day, with great gratitude and with expressing the desire to also become one of the Lord’s “saints.”
Historically, in some...
Today I'm thinking about one of my favorite Scriptures from Isaiah. It reads this way:
But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. (Isaiah 43:1-2)
This passage of Scripture has always comforted me. Even though I know that Isaiah meant these words for the people of Israel, I also hear them personally, as though the Lord is telling ME to “Fear not, because He has redeemed ME." And that no matter what life events come my way – even the traumatic ones – the Lord will never leave my side. Since I believe that that is true, I am comforted. And somehow my faith grows.
If we sort of back out of the Book of the...
As we go through life, day after day, it's all too easy to focus on the activities of the day, checking off our to-do lists. It's all to easy to focus on bringing in that next pay check. It's too easy to focus on our families, and ourselves.
As Christians, we know that we're "supposed" to focus on God, but many times, that may not be our daily reality. There's just too much to do. After all, we're not monks.
When abusive situations in our church have happened to us, it's even easier for our focus to not be on God, but on our hurt, on the injustice of it all, on our anger. Or maybe we are focusing on God -- but by blaming Him for what happened.
For the time being, it would seem that a healthy faith has flown out the window. Someone else's cruelty has proven to be a serious distraction from the way we view church, from the way we used to be able to pray, and from the love of God.
And yet, that's exactly where our healing lies: ...