Intimations of mortality

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cemetery, Doylestown

Nothing like a pastoral visit to the ER followed by a drive past a gloomy cemetery to stir intimations of mortality

I know that the poem is actually about “Intimations of Immortality.” I love the thought that we come into this world trailing clouds of glory. We do. Thank you, William Wordsworth.

A sermon for the Feast of the Epiphany

If you were paying attention over the past couple of weeks, you might have noticed that there were no “wise men” at our stable on Christmas. They didn’t get there until this morning. They started out nestled in some holly on one of the back windowsills, and by last Sunday they’d moved forward a little, but only as far as one of these windowsills here.

Because it’s a long way to Bethlehem, you know. They were on the road for a long time. It took a while to get there. But today we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany. It’s a word that means a sudden manifestation, or a flash of understanding. And our wise men have finally taken their place with Mary and Joseph and the shepherds all gathered around the manger.

Which of course is completely wrong.

The wise men weren’t there at the manger in the Gospels. They never met the shepherds. The traditional crèche scene like ours is based on the Nativity story as Luke told it, although the stable looks more like something you’d find in Europe than in Bethlehem. 

But Luke never mentions the magi—only Matthew tells a story in which they arrive in Bethlehem after Jesus was born, perhaps long after Jesus is born, and the find him with Mary in a house, not a stable.

So what you see on proud display here is basically a Biblical inaccuracy. I guess the best thing we can say about that is, at least we’re not the only ones. 

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A path of plentitude opening before you …

I’ve been reading a book of John O’Donohue’s musings, full of delightful new insights at almost every page turn, but this one is an old friend:

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you. 

“For a New Beginning,” originally from “To Bless the Space Between Us,” included in “Walking in Wonder: Eternal Wisdom for a Modern World.”

I’m going, I’m going …

I arrived in church continuing my reflection on simple pleasures, this morning pondering the pleasure of being the first to arrive at church on a Sunday. Opening doors, checking lights, making sure everything is ready, waiting for people to begin to trickle in. I’ve always thought it felt like getting ready to welcome guests. Then I unlocked my office door and found this guy waiting – quite stiff, if that isn’t apparent. The mice want my office, it seems; they’ve been making that clear for a month or so. OK, I think I get the message …

True peace

When I was little, I wished I could fly. I thought it would feel so peaceful to be able to rise above all the cares and concerns of life on earth, to watch them disappear as I flew on by. Now I know that true peace is found in love: “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” 1 John 4:16

#AdventWord #peace

Join the global Advent calendar at www.adventword.org

Peace train

Even if we’ve heard this story countless times before, it still has the power to fill us with expectation because it touches—and promises to satisfy—our deepest human longing: for peace and love, for the beauty and promise of new life, for the redeeming of all human brokenness. Like any good story, it fills us with new hope and calls us to believe that hope is real.

#AdventWord #expect

Join the global Advent calendar at www.adventword.org

(And yes, I do love living in a place called “New Hope.”)