Simeon’s Song and the Clarity of Christmas

Simeon Rembrandt

We are obsessed with power, but the story of Jesus begins in the corridors of powerlessness—in the Jewish temple, though not among the hustle of priests and the din of the Pharisees’ discussion of Torah, but at the seemingly insignificant fringes of Jewish life, in the world of widows and old men. The scene is prompted by the appearance of peasant parents from Galilee who are so poor they can't afford the offering of sheep for purification after the mother gives birth; this peasant couple brings … [Read more...]

Thankful Thanksgiving, Black and Blue Saints

bread and wine

The Greek word, eucharistia, from which we get the English word, eucharist—the breaking of bread and drinking of wine—means, at its core, thanksgiving. Today, as you eat and drink, remember that you are participating in a sacred feast. Every meal is a eucharist—a cause to give thanks—today, especially.The lines between sacred and secular, between mere food and sacred feast, are blurred in our earliest Christian records. Shortly after Pentecost, the birth of the church, the earliest followers … [Read more...]

Stop giving! We have more than enough!

offering hands

Ever heard a sermon titled, “Stop giving! We have more than enough!”No?Me neither.That’s why the story of the tabernacle in the book of Exodus is entrancing. (No, I’m not kidding. Entrancing.) The tabernacle was a portable tent the Israelites could put up and take down, like an old-fashioned circus tent, a Bedouin bed-and-breakfast, of sorts, for God.You may not see how entrancing this story is on a first read-through. The instructions on how the tabernacle should be prepared are … [Read more...]

Take a P This Week

plastic candles

I was sitting with my teaching assistant yesterday at a local coffee haunt near our campus. As we chatted amiably, I mentioned that her workload would be a heck of a lot more next term. “When I’m teaching,” I said. She cocked her head, looked puzzled, and said, “Aren’t you teaching now?” I hesitated and half-laughed, “Oh yeah, but my classes are Hebrew and contemplation, so it doesn’t feel like teaching.” I feel more like a student, translating a language I love and learning to slow down, listen, … [Read more...]

The Spirit & the Dreamer

dream

On Wednesday night, my Hebrew class translated Genesis 41—the dead center of the story of Joseph. The word plays in Hebrew are hilarious and skilled, the storyline suspenseful yet playful. In one verse, the seven scrawny cows of Pharaoh’s dream devour seven pleasantly plump cows, but you can’t tell because the skinny cows come to "the innards” (kidneys, livers, tripe—food thought to be delicacies by everyone but me during my Cambridge days), gobble them up, and stay scrawny. As one student puzzle … [Read more...]

Animals & Ambiguity: The Spirit & the Flood

Noahs-Ark-by-Edward-Hicks-001

About a month ago, I paused with you to ponder humanity’s first breath, when God stooped and shadowed the face of adam, with knees planted in the mud, hands sinking in the soft, damp earth, lips to lips, mouth to mouth—and blew into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life. On the outskirts of Eden we glimpsed the ambiguity of creation, adam created as dust from the earth (adamah in Hebrew). We came to grips with the unfortunate clash between energy and emptiness, life and death, breath and dust ... w … [Read more...]