Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Dream Isaiah Saw

I heard this song live yesterday: The Dream Isaiah Saw by Glenn Rudolph, text by Thomas Troeger. I can't find a great version online, but this one is decent.

In the 6 or so minutes the song lasted, it brought me out of Advent longing and straight into Christmas. The low, steady, military beat of the snare drums marched through the song gaining speed as the chorus, singing of Isaiah's dream of peace, gained momentum too. There was such motion and then in the end, a glorious breakthrough of pure singing. Peace descends.

As I sit here writing my sermon for tomorrow, I'm nearly undone by this song and the way it captures the miracle. In the midst of the powerful forces of this world: armies and marching orders and all the violence that's woven into our lives, God came to us as a baby to bring us peace.
Lions and oxen will sleep in the hay,
Leopards will join with the lambs as they play,
Wolves will be pastured with cows in the glade,
Blood will darken the Earth that God made.

Little child whose bed is straw,
Take new lodgings in my heart.
Bring the dream Isaiah saw:
Life redeemed from fang and claw.

Peace will pervade more than forest and field:
God will transfigure the Violence concealed
Deep in the heart of systems gain,
Ripe for the judgment the Lord will ordain.

Little Child whose bed is straw,
Take new lodgings in my heart.
Bring the dream Isaiah saw:
Justice purifying law.

Nature reordered to match God’s intent,
Nations obeying the call to repent,
All of creation completely restored,
Filled with the knowledge and love of the Lord.

Little child whose bed is straw,
Take new lodgings in my heart.
Bring the dream Isaiah saw:
Knowledge, wisdom, worship awe.

—Thomas Troeger

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holiday Rage got you down? Check out these tips.

Hi - A friend with whom I've been exploring the underbelly of anger dropped off a book the other day: "Healing Rage" by Ruth King. I haven't started it yet but Alice Walker likes it and that's enough for me.

Anger might seem like an odd pre-Christmas theme, but it's certainly in scripture. I preached on God's anger last week. The prophets preparing the way for the Messiah were full of anger. The big difference between them and most of us is that theirs was righteous anger, not misguided, frightened, bullying anger.

Their anger also didn't descend into rage. Ruth King makes a distinction between anger and rage. Rage has deep roots. It's blind, historical, irrational and overblown. I suspect that as I read more I'll learn that one reason Christmas is such a time for this overblown anger is that families are thrown out of their routines and triggers into past hurts are pulled. Hard to be worshipful when you're steaming at the sibling two seats down. Part of having a peaceful Christmas is learning how to manage the complexity of families and history at a time when emotions are in high gear.

If holiday rage keeps you from settling into the peace of Christmas, check out Ruth King's list of the top 10 ways to heal holiday rage. Helpful hints we can probably all use.
Peace and joy - Sarah

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Trust, anger, courage, hope.

Last month I wrote an article on Trust in Relationships for Cafe - the online magazine of the women of the ELCA. Read it here.

Someone thought I'd stolen the idea for the article from Max Lucado. I didn't. I've never read Max Lucado. But yesterday I chanced past a Christian Bookstore and saw a book of his with a cover picture of a boy jumping into water. I wrote about jumping into the water. I can see why someone would think I'd stolen his idea.

I don't plagiarize, but I am influenced by what people write. My sermons these next two weeks will probably draw on the Augustine quote used at the beginning of this month's article in Cafe, a piece called "Hope's Daughters" by Erik Christensen. His article calls us to consider anew just what it is we're angry about in this time of hope.

“Hope has two beautiful daughters,” writes Augustine of Hippo. “Their names are Anger and Courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.”

The quote speaks to me at a time in life where I sense the world is boiling over with anger but lacking in courage. I was together with 3 friends the other day and we all confessed to feelings of deep anger that sometimes took us by surprise.

I'd never thought of anger and courage as related to one another, and certainly not to hope. Something to think about...

Peace - Pr Sarah

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Advent bulbs

A month ago, my housemate Elizabeth and I planted over 200 bulbs in our front yard. If you've been to our house, you are probably asking yourself, "where?"

With only about 10 square feet of planting space in the yard, it's pretty dense down there.

I was planning to put in just 50 or so. But the kind people at Glen Echo Hardware gave me extra bags of tulips, crocuses, daffodils and hyacinths. It was so late in the season they figured no one was still planting.

After a month of unseasonably warm weather and constant rain, the bulbs think it's April. They're coming up. I was tickled to see green sprouts in the mulch.
But I'm worried. What happens to bulbs that come up prematurely? Will winter, if it ever comes, ruin these plants? Will they flower in the springtime? We'll see in a few months. At least we know we didn't plant them upside down.

Bulbs are an obvious metaphor for faith. You put a dead looking thing into the ground with hope and trust that the weather and seasons will work their miracles.

Hope is gestated in times when it seems like nothing good is happening. In the bleak midwinter, the Christmas hymn goes. As the weather is getting darker and darker, God's getting ready to be born into this world.

So what's it mean when the bulbs come up early? For me, it's a reminder to always be on the look-out for surprise. God, life and love appear in unlikely places at at unlikely times.
Happy Advent.

Ten for Ten. Ten reasons it's great to be a pastor, in celebration of my 10 year anniversary of ordination.

I'm in there somewhere. I was ordained at Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington DC on November 10, 2007, ten years ago today. ...