Two months ago I was in the midst of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with thirty others from the Episcopal Church in Connecticut. It has taken me that long to articulate in writing my reactions and feelings about the political climate regarding Israel and Palestine. I have already posted numerous reflections on the sites we visited, both spiritually and historically. But I have skirted around writing about the reality of the Palestinian people that I experienced; it was just below the surface in all my postings about Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Samaria, and Galilee.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, Israel is called to be a light to the nations. As a people chosen by God (technically, Abraham received this promise for all his descendants/offspring) to show the way back to right relationship to God, today’s Israel has fallen short of this covenant. Power and rule have a tendency to let leaders forget their responsibilities, which ultimately leads to division and corruption. As in Old Testament times, history continues to repeat itself. Recall the role of the prophets who kept calling God’s people back.
This past Sunday’s readings (10th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 15) spoke to me (with help from a great sermon which I will link here when it is posted) from Isaiah 5:1-7 and Luke 12:49-56. Israel continues to this day to grow (be) the wild (sour) grapes, while God gave all of us a beautiful vineyard to live in to grow sweet grapes – if we would only cease our divisions and love God as well as love our neighbor. God is angry. Jesus weeps. Yesterday and today.
The U.S. and Israel have a complicated relationship, which was exacerbated this past week with the on-again, off-again visits of two U.S. congress women desiring to visit family in the West Bank. You can read about it here (from NPR) as well as many other news sources. These two women know what it is like for the Palestinians (Muslim and Christian) to live in the occupied territories. I don’t believe most Americans really understand what is really happening in Israel, or how the U.S. government is upsetting the precarious balance. You have to see it to really understand.
As a child I recall singing “We are climbing Jacob’s ladder” in Sunday School. It was a story that I remember reading in my own Bible, trying to imagine how someone could sleep while their head rested on a rock – no wonder they had wild dreams!
In listening to the reading of Genesis 28:10-19a this morning at Eucharist, I was struck by the importance of place in which Jacob encountered God. And this wasn’t going to be the last place God interrupted Jacob’s sleep (in the coming weeks we’ll hear more about Jacob, including his wrestling with an angel during another fitful night without sleep). Jacob has many miles to go before he can truly sleep (taking liberties with Robert Frost).
But what about place? In the stories of Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah, each time they have an encounter with God, they mark each place with an altar of stones. Jacob does this same action, using his stone pillow as base for the altar. In all of the travels of God’s people in our Hebrew Scriptures, so many “mark the place” where they encounter God. Perhaps as a way to acknowledge the encounter with something tangible besides a memory, or perhaps as a landmark for whomever may come that way to know that something special happened there. So special that someone needed to “mark” it. Continue reading Jacob’s Ladder→
Performed at St. Mark’s in Mystic, CT on Sunday, December 18, 2016
In an homage to the preferred story-telling method of one of my writing heroes, Aaron Sorkin, this new Christmas pageant takes place during a rehearsal for a traditional Christmas pageant. Over the course of the play, the traditional elements of the pageant get untangled from each other and we distill the stories as told by Matthew and Luke.
As we approach the birth of Christ, this article by Carol Howard Merritt really struck me. It reminded me of the experience of serving as a minister of communion 30+ years ago on Christmas Eve when I was 8-months pregnant. I was not robed in my alb (it no longer fit) and I had to lean to reach those at the altar rail as I administered the chalice. My soon-to-be-born daughter was active that evening, and I remember her moving and pushing against my ribs as I proclaimed, “The blood of Christ, the cup of salvation.” I invite you to read this article by Carol:
“As I lifted the chalice, the baby began to play soccer under my ribs……
Advent to me has always meant preparation. As a child, my brother and I each had an Advent calendar that we would tape to the outside of our bedroom doors, opening a door each morning to discover a little phrase or image on the glittered cardstock. They were typically scenes of Bethlehem or a cityscape full of windows with mysteries behind them. We also had a family advent wreath, made from greens we had gathered from the pine trees in the woods behind our house. My mom would decorate the mantle with candles, greens, and family objects handed down through the generations. And we would set up the crèche, placing the kings and camels far from the little stable, with the shepherds and the sheep usually placed on a high shelf nearby, while Mary and Joseph waited over an empty manger. The Christmas tree was put up on Christmas Eve; my dad put on the lights, and I was lifted high to place the angel atop. Stockings were hung, cookies and milk put out, and we were put to bed to awaken to magic in the wee hours of the morning. Continue reading Advent Traditions→