Before 9am this morning, I was praying loudly, and with much feeling.
Each Sunday we sing together and say together that we offer God praise and thanksgiving. As celebrant one of us prays it out loud, too, on behalf of everybody gathered. I want to sit awhile this morning with the ideas of praise and thanksgiving, and you’ve probably noticed over the last almost two years that I’ve been with you all that I don’t say “thanks-GIVING” — like the holiday — but I always say “THANKS-giving,” which sounds a little awkward to our ears, but it emphasizes what we’re offering, what we’re “giving,” rather than the action of “giving” itself. We are giving “thanks” — we are offering praise, we are stating our gratitude out loud, lifting up our voices in compliments and truth-telling words of honor.
Sometimes this feels like another thing to check off the list, another sticker to put in the Religious Righteousness Achievement Booklet that we all keep at home in our desk drawers — or at least the list that we might imagine is in some cosmic storehouse in the sky. Offer our praise — check. Give our thanks — check. Wear our Sunday best and make it into the pew on time — check, check.
These women got up before daybreak, they gathered together the spices and salts they could find in order to tend the body of their beloved teacher, unjustly killed three days before. They did not deny the harsh reality that faced them; their lives looked very different without their Jesus at the helm, and yet in spite of their grief, perhaps because of their grief, they kept putting one foot in front of the other. They did not quit, or refuse to move, they plodded along, they lugged the heavy baskets of spices with them to do for Jesus’ body the same thing they’d done for their parents and friends, their neighbors and relatives, when they had each breathed their last.
Their actions were ordinary, everyday rituals. Theirs was a world full of death, where illnesses and accidents abound, the frailty of human life obvious at every turn. Their beloved teacher’s death was a tragic one, and all the more infuriating for its injustice, for he had done nothing wrong. Their response to this harrowing ordeal was to enact the same ritual they’d done countless times before, the same habit that their mothers had taught them; they came to tend the body.
Women, even today, are given special authority over the bodies of loved ones. Moms feed families and friends with produce from the fridge and stove — maybe even produce from the backyard or an urban chicken coop. Daughters are more often the children at parents’ deathbeds; mothers grow and birth children from their very own bodies, nourish them with water made milk from their own bodies; nurses are more often women, and in medicine, nurses are the front line of ailing bodies. The women who love Jesus show their devotion in the tending of his body, even after death, even in numbing grief, even in grave injustice. Continue reading
I don’t need to give y’all a history lesson; you know full-well that in the ancient world, women’s words weren’t worth the breath used to speak them.
Even in our own country, women were only granted the right to vote less than 100 years ago. My own great-grandmother, after whom I’m named and who I grew up spending time with, was born before women were allowed to vote in this country. Continue reading
preached at St. Augustine’s Oak Cliff, March 18, 2018
“Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps,” a thoroughly American motto, is a concept deeply-woven into our collective understanding. “Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” is a testimony of what it means to be a successful person and a responsible member of our society. “Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” has a long and honored history in our culture. It’s a point of pride, it tells us something about who Americans believe themselves to be, and what it is we believe we’re capable of. “Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” is about working hard, it’s about earning your wages by the sweat of your brow. “Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” tells us that we have all that we need to be successful inside of us, if we would only use it, only tap into it. “Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” believes that success or failure, our fate and destiny, the place we end up and the place where we are right now, is all in our own hands. We can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. We are our own saviors. Continue reading
“Take me past the outer courts, into the holy place, Lord I hunger and thirst for your righteousness but it’s only found one place, take me into the Holy of Holies, take me in by the blood of the Lamb, take me into the Holy of Holies, take the coal, cleanse my lips, here I am.”
That’s one of the worship songs that I grew up with, and I remember it being one of my favorites. It seems especially appropriate for this time of year with its haunting minor chords and earnest longing for transformation.
But I’ve started to wonder whether those words are true. Do we really want to go deep with God? Have we really invited him into the deepest, darkest points of our lives and asked him to cleanse us? Continue reading
Native Australians, the Aboriginals, are a people who, so far as I understand it, still have a rite of passage where young men are driven into the wilderness and are expected to fend for themselves for as long as six months as a way of transitioning into full manhood in the culture. They’re set up and prepared for this trip, trained and taught in the years leading up to it, and when they’re ready, according to the opinion of the chief elder, then they’re allowed to make their Walkabout.
That’s what the trip is called, a “walkabout,” and over a span of years this word has come to carry extra meaning. While it’s describing a noble and arduous undertaking, the trip of transformation and the greatest change in an Aboriginal man’s life, the word has now come to be used in a derogatory tone; in Anglo-Australian culture, it’s used to describe directionless wandering, pointless travel, a waste of time.
Jesus himself wanders into the wilderness to fend for himself for 40 days, he was with the wild beasts, and the angels waited on him — so says our Gospel lesson this morning — he bereft of human company, alone, without friends to fall back on, no cell-phone service, as Satan licked at his heels and helped him hallucinate bread.
It seems like a crazy thing to do after the spiritual high of baptism in the Jordan river and hearing God boom from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” We’re given, too, an outline of what Jesus is up to after this time in the desert, he went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news. So stuffed between these two activities so familiar to us, baptism, and telling the story of God’s redeeming love in our lives through evangelism, there’s that weird Walkabout. Continue reading