LAYERS OF PAINT

Fourth Sunday of Lent (C) - Joshua 5:9-12

The week before last, I had the opportunity to do some continuing education up at Camp Calumet in New Hampshire. The workshop was on Orthodox iconography, an ancient art form that traces its origins all the way back to the second century, and the beautiful images painted by Christians in the catacombs where they buried their dead. These paintings of saints and scenes from the Bible became stylized and codified over the centuries as they passed to Constantinople, and then north to Russia.

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HE KEEPS THE PARTY GOING

Second Sunday After the Epiphany (C) - John 2:1-11

The Wedding at Cana traditionally thought of as the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. It comes right at the beginning of John’s Gospel, though he’s the only one who tells the story, and John even calls it, “The first of [Jesus’] signs.” As far as signs, go, though, it’s a rather strange one. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus performs all kinds of miracles. He heals lepers, and helps a blind man see. He ceases the flow of blood for a hemorrhaging woman, and raises a little girl from the dead. He calms a storm that threatens to drown his disciples, and multiplies bread for a crowd of hungry people. He helps people. He heals people. But here, as Jesus’ ministry is just getting started, what does he do to reveal his glory? Jesus is at a party, and when they run out of wine, he makes more. He keeps the party going. Exactly what kind of a miracle is that?

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GENIZAH

Second Sunday of Christmas (C) - Sirach 24:1-12

In some parts of the Jewish tradition, the scriptural text is believed to be truly holy, in and of itself. That means that when a Bible gets old, torn and tattered and weathered by use, it can’t just be thrown away. It needs to be treated with dignity and respect, loved and cherished for the holy thing that it is. Copies of the Bible—particularly Torah scrolls of the kind used in synagogues—are collected together in a particular place, and when a certain quantity is gathered together, they are buried with ceremony and ritual. For some Jewish communities, this has extended to anything that quotes the Bible, too. Or is about the Bible. Or is Bible-like. Or hints at God. Or is written in Hebrew, the language of the Bible. Or… well, you get the idea. The documents are collected together in a place called a “genizah,” a room for storage until they can be permanently committed to burial in the ground.

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GOD AND HUMAN

First Sunday of Christmas (C) - Luke 2:41-52

When I was growing up, my mother encouraged my brother and I to be involved in the church in whatever ways interested us. I’m convinced that that’s a large part of why I’m a pastor now. My church life, as a young person, was busy. I sang in the choir, taught summer Sunday school, and helped to lead the children’s cantata. And went to the homeless shelter to serve meals. And played in the Christmas orchestra. We had a busy schedule. My favorite thing to do at church, though—and it still is today—was serving as a reader.

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COVENTRY CAROL

Blue Christmas 2015 – Isaiah 40:1-14, 28-31; Matthew 2:1-18

Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child. / Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

The Coventry Carol has long been one of my favorite Christmas tunes. I don’t know why. I think it’s the close harmonies that intertwine to make a carol that doesn’t quite sound as joyful as most Christmas carols do. It has a quieter beauty that somehow feels more like the Christmas I feel inside, than it does the one the rest of the world seems to be celebrating.

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