“I have an affection for a great city. I feel safe in the neighborhood of man, and enjoy the sweet security of the streets." -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Monday, March 29, 2010

Lenten Meditation

“For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light—for the fruit if the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord.”

-Ephesians 5:8-10

This time each year life becomes a bit different. We find ourselves in the midst of a journey; walking each day a little more closely with Christ. We walk toward the cross. We march through the darkness and into the light. As we look onto Calvary we see the pain of Christ, redemption found in suffering, and hope that the tomb will be empty and the cross will be vacant. Christ, the light of the world, entered this earth as a humble human. Jesus shared in our joys, sorrows, happiness, and heartache. We are called to share the light with all of those that we encounter; reaching out a hand of welcome, help, or assurance. So, as we journey during this Lenten season, let us walk toward the light. Let us walk toward the one to creates, redeems, and sustains us during life’s darkest hour. As a community that seeks to “live as children of the light” it is my prayer we will allow that light to shine so brightly that others will be drawn to this place.

Palm Sunday... Can you Hear the noise?

After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord needs it.” Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

Luke 19:28-40


Imagine the day. It is your typical hot, dry, dusty, day. Jesus has traveled over the area many times. Remember that time he visited the Mount of Olives before? The people were nice and welcoming… well for the most part. This day is different. Christ knows it is different, but the disciples, like most of the time, have no clue. Jesus is well aware that this will be his final journey into the city. Just a few chapters earlier in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus proclaims, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem you who kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you...” He knows what is waiting, he knows the end of the story.

The Messiah knows this will be his final journey into that city… into the places that kills and stones those who are sent to help it. But he continues his journey…his journey from the Mount of Olives and into the city gates. This is not your typical hot, dry, dutsy, day.

On this day Christ gives precise directions to his disciples. As an odd bunch, the disciples are known for questioning Jesus. Jesus knows his instructions but be exact. So he tells two of them, to go ahead, to go ahead to the little town, the suburb if you will, outside of Jerusalem. To enter into that city and find the colt… “Make sure it has never been ridden!” he reminds them, and then he tells them to untie it and bring it back to the group.” Jesus sends two disciples because the roads are treacherous, dangerous, and filled with thieves and criminals ready to harm an unaware traveler. With two of the disciples sent ahead, they are less likely to be harmed.

With directions in hand the disciples leave the group, they find the colt, and they untie it. When asked why they are uniting the colt, they give the correct response “the Lord needs it” they reply. They are permitted to take the colt back to the group traveling with Jesus.

When the two who were sent for the animal return, the other disciples lay their outer cloaks on the donkey. Then they place Jesus on the animal to ride into the city.

A large crowd has accumulated. Why, You may wonder? They have heard about the manner in which Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. They are interested to see the guy who had preformed some amazing miracles. One woman in the crowd leans over to her friend, “you know, that is the guy who brought Lazarus back from the dead.” “What?” the other woman replies, “You mean Mary and Martha’s brother was dead? But I just saw him the other week?” “That is what I hear,” says the first woman, “I herd that Lazarus was dead and that this man who is coming to town today raised him from the tomb.” Yes, the crowd has gathered; some out of curiosity, some out of amazement at what they had already seen, and some nosey gossips are there to find out if the rumors were true. With this crowd, there are also those who are with the government. There are those who are trying to manage the large group of people, we would call “crowd control.” There are religious leaders who are worried about the hysteria surrounded this guy from Nazareth, and then there are the Pharisees.

And so, Jesus rides in the midst of all these people. After seeing the disciple’s throw their cloaks on the colt that the Messiah is triumphantly riding, others start throwing their cloaks on the ground in front of the animal. It is almost like Jerusalem is “rolling out the proverbial red carpet” for Jesus.

The crowd is welcoming him back, back to the city that he just recently left. They are welcoming this man from Nazareth and his group of misfit friends. As Jesus nears closer to the city the crowd gets thicker. Neighbors have told neighbors that Jesus is about to enter into the city gates. Everyone has come to watch has he enters into the city gates on the hot, dry, dusty day.

As they approach Jerusalem the disciples start to praise God. They begin to remimber all the wonderful things their teacher has done and they start to praise the Lord, the Creator of all.

All of the sudden someone first says “Hosanna, Hosanna! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” Then another individual mentions the words “Hosanna, Hosanna! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” Before long the crowd is chanting the words “Hosanna, Hosanna! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna, Hosanna! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” Even the little children are shouting “Hosanna, Hosanna! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” Can you hear the noise? Can you hear the excitement? Can you see the people lay their cloak down for the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords? Can you see Jesus, riding that colt triumphantly into Jerusalem knowing that the excitement and the praise will not last, knowing that this marks the beginning of the end, and knowing that the crowds will turn against him.

Can you hear the noise, the praise, and the excitement? Over off to the side of the road there are those who have never understood…those who have questioned the miracles and the teachings of Christ all along. They do not like the crowd; they do not like the noise. They do no like the excitement. Our gospel lesson tells us that Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” Surely if the disciples are quiet, the crowd will calm down as well. The Pharisees think, “this man is drawing too much attention to himself, this crowd is out of control, this needs to stop! Now!”

No the noise will not stop and the crowd will not calm down. This is the Messiah that is entering Jerusalem. The Son of God, God incarnate is riding that colt through the city gates. The noise will not stop, the cheering will not end, and the praise will not subside. Because even if it did, the stones will praise the one who Creates, Redeems, and Sustains. Creation will praise the incarnate God if the crowds do not. This is the Messiah and the Messiah has entered Jerusalem. If the crowds stop praising the one who will save them, then creation will praise the Creator of all! No the noise will not stop. Not today and not for eternity.

Can you hear the noise? Can you see the crowd? Like, Christ, we all know it will not last. We know the same crowds who shout “Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna! Hosanna!” will soon yell “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Can you hear the noise?

In the midst of this celebration, we know the journey is not over. We know the path that lies ahead of our Lord. We know that the shouts of praise will turn to angry voices of the mob willing to kill our Lord. We know that our Savior will walk up the steps to the upper room and eat a final meal with his disciples. We know that our Lord will be betrayed by a close friend and will be denied by a confidant. We know that the journey to the cross is a long one that begins today. Can you hear the noise, can you hear the excitement? Enjoy it today, because it is short-lived. Can you hear the noise?

Please join me in prayer…

Oh God who redeems us, meet us in this place as we seek to follow you into Jerusalem, through the trial with Pontius pilot, and to the cross. In the middle of all of the noise in our life; let us hear the soft whisper that beckons us to come and draw near to you.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Renewed Love

You know, Mississippi often gets a bad rap. Lets admit it, normally when you think about "Mississippi" the thoughts are not the best: a troubled past, poor education, and economic disparity. I often find myself drifting back into those types of thoughts about this wonderful state. I wonder "Who would want to live in Mississippi?" or "Why would someone choose to move there?" Well, a few weeks ago I had the privilege to get my thoughts straight about this place once more. I went to Oxford, Mississippi: Home to the Ole Miss Rebels, wonderful music, adorable shops, great folk art, the best bakery in the world (Bottletree), and Camp Lake Stephens. I mean where else in the world can you eat lox, listen to music in an old grocery store, see an SEC football game, learn about the Southern literature greats, and buy an adorable Michael Kors jacket (on sale, nonetheless). You guessed it; Mississippi. I lived in Mississippi one summer while I worked at Camp Lake Stephens. It was there that I first realized how interesting of a place this was and how much I had under-appreciated it through the years. This time, I traveled with a group of high school seniors to Oxford on a church bus for eight hours and it was well worth the drive. We had a great time staying at Camp Lake Stephens and doing service projects on some trails for summer camp. In the evenings there were fun activities planned: Memphis BBQ, a Rebels baseball game, and dinner at Old Venice... we even managed time for ice cream each night! YUM! Mississippi is a wonderful state that has a special place in my heart.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Why Stand Out?

It is a gradual realization. It has taken about eight months and I am sure it will take a bit longer. When a group of my colleagues gather for an event I stand out. I really stand out. Monday I attended a clergy event for those in the conference. I first noticed the oddity when I walked into the women's bathroom to find no line (as most of you know, this is rarely the case). Then I walked into the auditorium at a United Methodist Church. I looked over the crowd and there was a sea of grey hair. Short, sometimes balding, grey hair. Yes, most of my colleagues are old enough to be my father. Most clergy in my episcopal area are men who are over the age of 50. So, obviously a 27 year old woman stands out a bit.... especially in my fabulous black paten stilettos. I sat there an wondered "how many of these men take me seriously, how many view me as a counterpart rather than a little girl playing preacher-woman?" Then I realized it did not matter, not one little bit. When I am approaching fifty and my hair is beginning to grey, there will be other women in this auditorium, and hopefully the church will be better because of it. I have a great deal of respect, gratitude, and admiration for those women who paved the way for me to stand where I do today. Maude Keister Jensen was the first women to be ordained by the Methodist church when it first granted full clergy rights to women in 1956. Since then there have been many women ordained but few of them seem to have stayed in my area. Times are changing, bigotry no longer has a place, and I am not just a "little girl playing preacher-woman." Like Faith Whittlesey said "Remember Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astiar did, but she did it backwards and in high heels."