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Nativity

January 17, 2016

This is my favorite window at my church. At first I was attracted by the deep blues and purples of the sky.

As I spent more time with the window, I began looking at the people in it and wondering about them. Do you see what intrigued me?

nativitywindow

When people came to visit me after my children were born, they were smiling. No one in this picture is smiling. Not the people. Not the angels. Not even the sheep or the camels. No one is smiling.

You would think that someone might be happy that the Messiah is born. This is, after all, the good news proclaimed by the angels.  But Joseph looks as if he is about to cry.

It is as if they all recognize the dangerous thing God is doing. It is a very dangerous thing for God to become one of us. It is a very dangerous thing to live among us. It is a very dangerous thing to be the good news, the Word among us.

Each year we tell the Christmas story up to the coming of the Magi.  It is a wonderful story. The Magi, gentiles from the East come and worship King Jesus. But we often neglect to tell the rest of the story. The Magi are warned by an angel to avoid Herod when they leave because Herod wants to kill the child. An angry Herod orders the death of innocent infants in a frantic attempt to destroy the Messiah. Mary, Joseph and Jesus flee for their lives to Egypt. This is a dangerous thing God is doing. Jesus was born into dangerous times. No wonder everyone is so solemn.

It is easy for us to make Christmas into a feel good baby story. Who doesn’t love babies? And we are right to rejoice at the birth of Jesus. But like the people in the stained glass window, we also need to give proper consideration to the dangerous thing God did for us.

Look at that baby. Is there anything God will not do for us?

Water

January 3, 2016

Water is necessary for life. It quenches thirst. It washes away dirt. But it also drowns. Water is common. Water is precious. Water is, as baptism reminds us, holy.

If you visit my church, you will find the baptismal font at the entrance to the sanctuary. You cannot walk from the door of the church to the table without passing the baptismal font. It is not there in the door as a barrier, but as a reminder. Water marks our entrance into holy space.

When we leave the sanctuary we walk past the font. We leave reminded of our baptism. Water marks our entrance into holy space, because the whole world is destined to be holy space.

Symbolically and actually the baptismal font reminds us to see the world with new eyes. Now  and then, we receive glimpses of the holy place.

Once I lived in a house with a fourth bedroom at the top of the house. It was an extra room, the place we put the mismatched furniture, the old kitchen table, the extra bed and the books we couldn’t part with but weren’t deemed worthy of being  downstairs in a more public space. While I lived in that house,I wrestled with an important decision and I spent the early hours of the day, before anyone else was,awake in that room praying and wondering and waiting for the way to be made clear.

A visiting friend staying in that room and remarked on the peacefulness of the room. The peace of that room was not due to it’s decor. The peace of that room was because it was a place of prayer and encounter. It had become a thin place, a holy place.

Calvin wrote that in worship we are taken up into heaven. I sometimes imagine the whole sanctuary lifting up, even though I know that heaven isn’t “up”. Transforming is probably a better world. The sanctuary transforms, it stretches, it shifts between heaven and earth, what is and what is not yet.

The baptismal font is there to remind us, perhaps to warn us, we are entering holy space and time- both within and outside the walls of the church.

Walking into thin space may cause us to tremble and flail and gasp for breath as the waters cover us. We may become soaked as the grime of living is washed. We may be soothed as the aches and pains of life dissolve as we sink into the water.

The baptismal font stand just inside the door reminding me to enter the water, the living water again. Actually I think it is there to remind me that really, I never leave the water and the water never leaves me. I walk through life dripping wet. Leaving a trail of holy water and an invitation to the thin places of life. If only I remember.

 


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