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Dec 2 20

Firmly in the hands of God

by davesandel

Wednesday, December 2, 2020                      (today’s lectionary)

Firmly in the hands of God

The hand of the Lord rests on his mountain. On his mountain, the Lord will provide a feast of rich food and choice wines.

Driving south out of America’s breadbasket (Illinois, I mean), into the rice and cotton fields of Arkansas and the cattle ranches of Texas, I taste it all. But I also taste the bitterness of over-used land, under-planned development and our general willingness to ignore all of that. We don’t abandon ourselves to divine providence. We abandon our old cars and tractors instead. Our brick buildings erode and turn to powder year by year. There is something greener just over the hill.

On his mountain he will destroy the veil woven over all the nations. Between us all, we have always lived with the veil of death. But he will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away the tears from every face.

A big bird flies up from the roadkill. She’ll be back shortly, a vulture appreciating her meal. Many of our friends have been touched by death in the family this year. We’re getting to that age, of course. Margaret told me they can’t film a new rendition of the old show Golden Girls because over half the cast has passed away. Alex Trebek died, and Jeopardy will recover but never be the same.

When I walk through the dark valley I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and staff, they comfort me.

In the meantime I fly down the road in a loaded car, knowing that Austin is just a hop-skip-jump away (well, nine hours …). I’ll empty out the Prius, share a birthday dinner with Miles, Jasper and their parents, and head back to Illinois for another load. How does a taco meal from Torchy’s sound: maybe a Republican taco, a Democrat taco, and an Independent taco? They are very different, I’ve been told. Why not try them all?

You spread the table before me, you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.

Our apartment is just a few minutes from the Tomita house. We’ll be spending time together several days a week. Miles and Jasper will become accustomed to our home. I anticipate these regular reunions with great joy, as we plan the future while firmly in the hands of God.

God describes us as a little less than angels, and also as a little more. We have more value than sparrows, Jesus says. And look how much God loves the sparrows. I am happy to eat bread and fish from the hands of Jesus.

My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with me three days and have nothing to eat. How many loaves do you have? (Seven, and a few fish.) So Jesus broke the loaves and gave thanks, and the disciples distributed them, and thousands of people had enough to eat, and there were seven baskets left over.

In my mind I notice nothing but gratitude – for the tractors that harvest the corn and rice, for the farmers who feed their cattle, for the trucks who deliver countless vegetables and meat to Torchy’s in the middle of the night, for my children who love me and feed me on my birthday, and especially for the hands of Jesus, full of food for all of us.

There is so much for us to share.

Only goodness and kindness will follow us all the days of our lives. For we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

(Isaiah 25, Psalm 23, Matthew 15)


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Dec 1 20

Wonderful words of life

by davesandel

Tuesday, December 1, 2020               (today’s lectionary)

Wonderful words of life

For years I’ve struggled with my addiction to the sounds and sights of words. The beauty of words put together well overwhelms me, and never more than today, this third day of the Advent season. The Scriptures pour over my head like honey, like honey from a honeycomb.

A bud shall blossom, and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, a Spirit of counseling and of strength, a Spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord. He shall judge the poor with justice, he shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath from his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.

There’s no telling how words change my mind and transform my heart. And in the larger world, words make mountains move and call nations into justice. We are all one river, all one sea. Although first there must be much dividing, Jesus is coming to bring us together.

The wolf shall be a guest of the lamb. The leopard shall lie down with the kid. The calf and young lion shall graze together and a little child will lead them. The baby shall  play by the cobra’s den, and the child will lay her hand on the adder’s nest.

This vision is never far from the surface of my mind, as was also true for Edward Hicks, who painted a hundred versions of the “peaceable kingdom.” To hear the words is to see the vision, and to see the vision is to relax and know that God’s in charge. There’s just nothing else to say.

There shall be no harm nor ruin on all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

Our appointment cards for counseling and spiritual direction have always carried those words. The “harms and ruins” of my life lose their sting in this “knowledge” of the Lord. It’s only in that context that any of what we do matters.

Isaiah means knowledge in the Biblical sense, right? God comes right inside me and restores my soul, remakes my SELF into what he created in the first place. And he lives right there forever in the womb of my belonging. What else is there to sing but praise? Even the blues transform into thanksgiving. As I bend the notes with my harmonica, I feel God’s surging joy.

As long as the sun his name shall remain, and in him every tribe of all the earth is blessed. Let us proclaim his happiness forever.

These days of joy are not for curmudgeons but for children, all at play in the fields of the Lord. Young Advent voices of boys and girls echo the music of the spheres. Jesus calls us to come and sing the soprano strains of your youth.

I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for though you hide these things from the wise and the learned, you have revealed them to the children. This, O Father, has been your gracious will. Blessed are the eyes that see, and blessed are the ears that hear.

O come, o come, Emmanuel. Come, Lord Jesus, into the darkened days, into our longest nights, come and shed your light. We wait and even as we wait, we know that you’re already here.

(Isaiah 11, Psalm 72, Luke 10)


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Nov 30 20

Walking the well-worn trail

by davesandel

Monday, November 30, 2020             (today’s lectionary)

Feast of Saint Andrew, Apostle

Walking the well-worn trail

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. There is no distinction between Jew and Greek. The same Lord is Lord of all.

Just checking my email every day I learn so much about Christian history. Missionaries and priests, heretics and martyrs, popes and social workers all followed paths they believed God sent them on.  On Thanksgiving I imagined walking on a well-worn trail from Plymouth to a Native American village, invited to a feast to celebrate God’s protection and provision. Whether we called God “God” or “Earth Mother” didn’t matter. We felt her presence, his presence in the midst of every bite of turkey and every word of thanks.

Now that we’re friends, what’s my duty to God and country? What’s my duty to my new friends? Which duty comes first?

How can they call on him if they have not believed? But how can they believe if they haven’t heard? How can they hear if I don’t preach? But how can I preach if I’m not sent. Isaiah rejoiced, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news?” And then he mourned, “But who has believed us?”

What then? Lots of different answers from our human mouths and hearts, but God speaks more clearly than any of us. I think it’s wise for me to say little and listen much.

Jesus walked and saw Peter and Andrew and said, “Come and follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And at once they left their nets and followed him.

Saint Andrew is the patron saint of many countries – Barbados, Romania, Russia, Scotland, and Ukraine, also many cities as well as the Order of the Golden Fleece and the Patriarch of Constaninople. He didn’t travel to all those places, but at least his relics did. Pieces of St. Andrew are everywhere (how beautiful are the feet …).

Honoring the ancients makes me more honorable, I think. Realizing that I walk in a path too, guided by God like Andrew in Russia or William Bradford in Massachusetts, reminds me that my day is like a thousand years, and God’s thousand years are like a day. I can walk with assurance in my own brief moment of time, trusting the trustworthiness of God.

The law of the Lord is perfect, and it refreshes all our souls. His decree is trustworthy, for he is wise and we are simple. He loves us as we are, he pours honey from the honeycomb sweet upon our heads, he anoints us with his words, more precious than gold.

(Romans 10, Psalm 19, Matthew 4)


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Nov 29 20

These are the days of your appearing

by davesandel


Today is the first day of the new Church Year 2020-2021



First Sunday of Advent, November 29, 2020            (today’s lectionary)

These are the days of your appearing

Lord, you are our father, so why do you let us wander and harden our hearts and thereby fail to fear you? Please come again and make the mountains quake. and impress us with awesome deeds as we have heard from old. You are angry and we are full of sin. Even our good deeds are like polluted rags. We wither like leaves and our guilt carries us away like the wind.

The winds rise and so too our souls, like autumn leaves, light, no longer living, blowing in the wind. Once we were green and bright and strong, and we sang a different song. You led us in the song of spring, and we worshipped you together. But not now. You are angry and we are full of sin.

But still Lord, you are our father. You are the potter and we are the clay. Every one of us is the work of your hands.

No wonder we must spend four weeks preparing for the Great Day, for the coming to earth of your kingdom and our salvation. Four weeks isn’t enough, it never is. We are distracted now as always by colored lights, by laughter down this alley or that, by the kiss of wine and taste of roasted meat.

But then you say, no problem boys and girls. I will come down to you, and I will laugh with you and be kissed by wine myself, and taste the roasted meat. Give me a piece of fish, Jesus will someday say, a week or so after he’s been crucified and buried, and became alive again.

O shepherd of Israel, look down from heaven and take care of this vine, protect what your right hand has planted. Give us new life and we will no more withdraw from you. May your help be with the man of your right hand, with the son of man whom you’ve made strong.

These are the first days of the coming of Jesus. Mary, pregnant by the Holy Spirit, waits to birth her child Jesus. The “mother of God” will carry us with her as she walks with Joseph through silent staring streets toward the little town of Bethlehem. Gentle whispers in her womb overcome her embarrassment. Even as Jesus is not yet born he says to her, “Do not be afraid.” This predicament is only the first of many. “There’s no hurry, Mary. Just take one step and then another.”

Brothers and sisters, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. As you wait for the revelation of Jesus, you have been enriched in every way. God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

There will be days of blossom, days of thorn. Questions rise up like gorge in Mary’s throat, and in ours. Why does it have to be this way? Can’t you call me into fellowship with less confusion? But God just whispers, “This confusion is neither yours nor mine, it’s simply an attack of evil, and you can breathe, and you can walk straight, and I will never leave you.”

Show us Lord, your love, and grant us your salvation. But teach us to be watchful, because we do not know when the time will come.

We’ve made a ritual and tradition called Advent so we can know at least a little something. Jesus is coming soon. We’ll sing the songs we’ve always sung and praise him. That’s our job these days, and the rest will appear at just the right time.

(Isaiah 63, Psalm 80, 1 Corinthians 1, Psalm 85, Mark 13)


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Nov 28 20

How much heaven?

by davesandel

Saturday, November 28, 2020            (today’s lectionary)

How much heaven?

An angel showed me the river of life-giving water. On either side of the river grew the tree of life. There will be no more curses, and no more cursed, instead the throne of God and the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.

How much heaven can I stand? Earth and sky exist no longer, so what in fact do I even stand on? Yet whenever I think I’m falling, there’s the tree of life to catch me, hold me like a cradle, wrap me in a smooth cocoon until I’m ready to step out again. Oh, the beauty! Oh, the joy. My questions settle down to rest, while the sun comes up and the new day’s rising.

We will look upon his face and his name will be on our foreheads. The night will be no more. The Lord God will give us light. His servants shall reign forever and ever.

There’s no light like the light coming from the face of God. Stained glass catches just a glimpse of it, sunrise pours that light into my soul. I am learning, Lord, to be your child and let you love me. Someday I might learn to be your servant, to understand and stop questioning what you want from me, and Just Do It.

And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. Behold, I am coming soon. Come, Lord Jesus!

I’ve always been skeptical, I’ve asked questions since I was just a tyke. God, you made me that way. I begin to see my way through, at least in the night as I sleep, when you put back together all I’ve torn apart.

Waking from that sleep I see the virtue of obedience, the freedom you offer when I follow. The song I wrote for the pulpit, from Psalm 119, those words sing out in my mind, “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” Free at last, thank God almighty, I’m free at last. You’ve made me so, and so I thank you and sing out with joy, in tune and out of tune.

Come and sing joyfully to the Lord, come into his presence with thanksgiving, come and bow down in worship and kneel before the Lord who made us.

The sagas of Ordinary Time 2020 come today to their end. All who still survive have stories. Now tomorrow begins our Advent season (my 71st). We all look up from yesterday, we all step into today. The calendar does not lie.

These are the days that the Lord has made. Songs in the minor keys will soon surround us, O come, o come, o come Emmanuel. And Christmas is coming, Jesus is born in the little town of Bethlehem, and the shepherds will join their sheep and fall down in worship. Songs in the major keys will rise up from every hill. O Lord, you’re here, let earth receive her King.

Let me receive my King!

For he is our God, and we are his people.

I hear the words of James Joyce and let them guide me into God: “Welcome, o life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to gaze on you in the smithy of my soul. I go to let your love forge me into all you’ve made me to be. Hold me and send me forth in strength after strength.”

Jesus said, Be vigilant always in the midst of daily life. Both anxiety and relaxation can catch you by surprise in a trap, for that day of Returning will assault every one of you, no matter where you are or what you’re doing.

(Revelation 22, Psalm 95, Luke 21)


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Nov 27 20

A thousand years are like a day

by davesandel

Friday, November 27, 2020    (today’s lectionary)

A thousand years are like a day

I saw an angel come down from heaven holding in his hand the key to the abyss and a heavy chain. He seized the dragon, the ancient serpent, the Devil, and tied it up for a thousand years.

Imagine yourself in this story! It’s one thing to be a man or woman walking with Jesus in the dust of Galilee or Samaria. It’s altogether another to stand on the edge of the River Styx and see the devil cowering before the angel Michael. My heart skips every other beat and spins into flight. I can’t even blink my eyes, and every distinct cry of the demon screams in my ears. This is the day of redemption and victory that Jesus talked about. In fact his words that seemed so crazy were simply … true. I am not trying to understand, I just try to keep my feet.

And I saw souls of those beheaded for their witness to Jesus and the word of God. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

But as Peter said, a thousand years are like a day. Time flies when you’re having fun. Tell everyone we aren’t going to bed tonight. Let’s just watch and see, taste and see, hear the words of God. Look at those corpses of once-upon-a-time. There’s my grandpa, there’s my dad. There’s Aunt Mary, there’s grandma, larger than life. Reigning with Christ. And I’m figuring out that “reigning” means loving.

Then I saw one who sat on a large white throne. In his presence even the earth and sky did not stand, they fled. But the dead still stood there while scrolls were opened, those including the book of life, and we were judged by our deeds, by what was written in those scrolls. All were judged. Those not written into the book of life, along with Death itself,  were thrown into the pool of fire. For them this was the second death.

I don’t need to understand, I can’t understand, but I’m made to ask questions. I thought I knew death as a sort-of friend almost, the natural end to a natural life well lived, or at least a life well covered with mercy and forgiveness. But this death is a hated thing, unnatural, and thrown away at last, buried in the molten lava and sinking, sinking, always altogether gone from us. And some of us go with it? How can that be?

And then, and then! I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem coming down from God. She was prepared as a bride, adorned for her husband.

My senses and imagination are crushed like grapes in a winepress. There is no telling what will happen next. Celebrations flow past me like confused rivers.

But this wedding and the feast right after, they draw me in with everyone else, those of us who are left. I can’t get those others out of my head, watching them swallowed by the fiery sand. Isn’t anyone else asking? How can that be?

Even a sparrow finds a home and the swallow a nest where she can put her young. Blessed are all who dwell in your house. You will go from strength to strength. Stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.

God the Father presides on this wedding day. Jesus reaches for our hand. He draws us close. My fear and confusion fade. Jesus is love. God is just. There are no mistakes. Do I still need to ask my questions? What is mine to understand?

Jesus said, “Consider the fig tree. Its buds burst and you know that summer is near. This generation will not pass away until all these things have happened.”

An invitation. Think about this, David. Remember your experience, imagine yourself into this story. Stand on the earth, not yet swallowed up. Feel the air, cool and fresh. Taste a fig, and really hear the word of the Lord. Rather than parsing it, relax and receive its rich life.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will NOT pass away.

(Revelation 20, Psalm 84, Luke 21)


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Nov 26 20

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing

by davesandel

Thursday, November 26, 2020           (today’s lectionary)

Thanksgiving Day in the USA

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing

Well, yes, but we gather in much smaller groups this year, at least here in the Sandel-Comstock-Tomita-Catizone Lands. Fewer people, fewer parties, farther apart, masks replacing smiles … except we know you’re in there, you smile, you!

Less lipstick, and less travel. More confusion … what did you say? More communication with the eyes, with the windows of the soul. So in these co-vid times, we often find ourselves being more honest with each other without even intending it.

And in the ways of all flesh, this recursion into honesty is a good thing. Just look at what happens otherwise:

A mighty angel picked up a huge millstone and threw it into the sea. Babylon will never be found again. No more music, no more art, no more industry, no voice of bride and groom, not even the light of a lamp will ever be seen in you again. Never again will the nations be led astray by your magic potion.

I watched half our chickens walking aimlessly around the back yard gate this morning. Their alpha chicken was elsewhere. “Sheep without a shepherd,” I whispered, not wanting them to hear me. I felt sad for their aimlessness so early in the morning. We don’t need to be that way.

Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb. Salvation, glory and might belong to our God. Know that this is God, and that he made us, and we are his, we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Stand up straight and raise high your heads because our redemption is at hand.

I imagine during the Civil War that word trickled down of Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation of Thanksgiving, a day to “praise our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” Union generals read the announcement to their soldiers. Confederate spies must have mentioned it to Confederate generals, and majors, and captains, who whispered the same suggestion to their troops. At that day’s dawn, firing did not resume. Instead cooking fires were kindled, and soldiers shared their breakfasts, wondering if they could maybe share some of it with the guys across the creek, over there in the trenches, on the other side of the line. Some of them were brothers. No strike that, all of them were brothers.

But mostly, they took naps in the afternoon on opposite sides of the works. The turkey and dressing, the sweet potato pie could not for long dissuade the principalities and powers of this dark world.

When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, know that its desolation is at hand. Flee to the mountains! A terrible calamity will come upon the earth and wrathful judgment on this people, who will fall by the edge of the sword, be trampled under foot, and people will die of fright.

When Jesus walks into this bloodbath, both sides stop their shooting. What a day of rejoicing that will be. When the Son of Man comes in a cloud with power and glory, stand up in plain sight and give thanks. The guns will all be dropped, no hands to hold them anymore:

Raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.

Margaret’s and my digital business card is headlined by a verse from Isaiah, by hope-filled words of peace and Thanksgiving …They shall no longer harm or destroy on my holy mountain, because the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

(Revelation 18, Psalm 100, Luke 21)


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Nov 25 20

The best kind of theodicy

by davesandel

Wednesday, November 25, 2020       (today’s lectionary)

The best kind of theodicy

Through seven angels and seven plagues, God’s fury is accomplished. But in the fog and in the mist I see a plane of glass mingled with fire. Men and women are standing on that glass holding God’s harps, singing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb.

Won’t we be standing on that glass? Join the heavenly host singing Hallelujah? How do you hold a harp while standing? What part will I sing in the choir? I’m in between tenor and baritone, I think. I hope there’s an instruction manual.

I wonder if the glass is slippery. I imagine we’ll be sliding around a little on our tears of thanksgiving and praise. Maybe our noses will be running just a bit. This is a big crowd we’re talking about. I hope there are angels walking around offering Kleenex, mopping up the floor, picking up those of us who slipped. Those angels, they love us so much.

I don’t ask myself many questions about these revelatons, just go with the flow of the story. It is good to remember that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. God is our mother and our father, and we are loved.

Great and wonderful are your works, and just and true are your ways, Lord God Almighty. You alone are holy, and your righteous acts have been revealed.

After the pilgrims and natives shared a table together in 1621, then in 1789 President Washington proclaimed Thanksgiving official in the new United States. But in the midst of Civil War President Lincoln proclaimed it again in 1863, “a national day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” War-weary Americans needed something to turn their hearts toward heaven.

Sing to the Lord a new song. His right hand, his holy arm has won victory.  So now let the sea resound, and everything in it, and the world and all who live in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, and the mountains come together and sing for joy.

Seven years later President Grant proclaimed Thanksgiving yet again, and President Roosevelt settled any remaining questions in 1942. In Washington, no one could even seem to agree on Thanksgiving.

Jesus warned them. They will seize you and persecute you. It will go from bad to worse, dog-eat-dog, everyone will be at your throat because you speak my name. Some of you will be turned in by parents or relatives or friends. You’ll end up in court and be called to testify. Make up your mind right now not to worry about that. I will give you words to speak that will reduce your opponents to helpless stammering.

I am prone to self-pity and self-righteousness, and feeling sorry for myself, and all sorts of ego-driven self-made pain. Jesus agrees that there is trouble, and there will be trouble, and I’ll be in the midst of it. Pain enough for all of us. He does not apologize or pull the wool over my eyes. He also does not tolerate my self-pity or my self-righteousness. Get over it. Make up your mind right now not to worry about that, he says.

You might be killed, you might be hated by all … but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. Be faithful. You won’t be sorry. You’ll be saved. (The Message, Luke 21)

Jesus reconciles being killed with being protected. That’s the best kind of theodicy. Jesus tells me that suffering is the way through suffering, that death is the way into life. He knows every hair on my head, and gives me words to say and pray when I can’t find them myself. When I can’t even find a comb.

When I fail, God does not. The truth of these words is only obvious and visceral when it’s my story in the flesh … when it’s my heart, my skin, my fear, my wordlessness that God turns into prayer.

Remain faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

(Revelation 15, Psalm 98, Revelation 2, Luke 21)


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Nov 24 20

Week of apocalypse

by davesandel

Tuesday, November 24, 2020            (today’s lectionary)

Memorial of Saint Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions

Week of apocalypse

On a white cloud sat the son of man with a gold crown on his head and sharp sickle in his hand. An angel called out to him, “The earth’s harvest is fully ripe.” And he gave a mighty sweep of his sickle, harvesting the earth in a single stroke.

But other angels came out of the temple. They used their sickles too, and harvested the earth’s vintage, for the grapes were ripe. And these grapes were thrown into the great wine press of God’s fury.

In the midst of the black plague in England, Julian of Norwich wrote from her fourteenth century cell about God’s love. In her own illness she nearly died, but those days between life and death showed her visions of God as tender mother or father with an all-enveloping love.

Hadn’t she read Revelation?

Episcopalian priest Mary Earle says Julian “directs us all to look at ways in which we project our own bitterness, anger and vengeance upon God. In a resolutely maternal way, Julian encourages us to grow up and cast aside our immature and punitive images of God. Doing this we can more easily be honest with ourselves about those of our own actions which have their roots in spiritual blindness.”

The Lord is king. He governs all with equity. He shall rule the world with justice and constancy.

Let the heavens be glad, let the earth rejoice, let the sea resound, let the plains sing out in joy, and the forest trees exult.

Mary Earle says that Julian “employs homely imagery and language, the vocabulary of domesticity, to tell us that God is as close to us as the clothing we wear, and that God is our friend. She is firm and steady on these four points.

  1. God is One.
  2. Everything is in God.
  3. God is in everything.
  4. God transcends and encloses all that is made.”

Remain faithful unto death. I will give you the crown of life.

Luke’s chapter 21 spares no punches. Jesus, like Julian, knew the nature of suffering and would eventually know the nature of death. In all of that, and in our own suffering and our own death, the gentle firmness of God’s immovable presence prevails.

Jesus looked at the temple, and the tourists. And he said, “The day will come when there will be nothing left. But don’t be deceived by anyone who says they know the time. Wars must happen, and nations will rise against nations. Earthquakes, famines and plagues will come, and mighty signs in the sky will frighten you. Not yet. Even then, be quiet and faithful and wait.”

Jesus has much more to say about the end of things. All this week before Advent, he will say it. Let the mix of Jesus’ words and the visions of the Revelator shake and rattle and roll in your gut. In the morning’s traffic and the silence of the evening, let the words of God pour through you, the purest living water. Let them pour over you, the sweetest clover honey. Let them pour you out, a drink offering, out of life to death, and into life again.

(Revelation 14, Psalm 96, Revelation 2, Luke 21)


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Nov 23 20

A place in time

by davesandel

Monday, November 23, 2020             (today’s lectionary)

A place in time

When John the Revelator wrote, he wrote about what he saw and heard. As in much of the Bible, the particulars stand out.

I looked, and there was the lamb.

I heard a sound from heaven.

Time and space become moments and place. Universals become particular, and the more concrete and beautiful, the better. This is the stuff memories and myths are made of. When I hear a sermon I recall the stories, the framework on which the preacher hangs his ideas. And words matter most when my times with God are defined (liturgy) or unsettled (prayers in tongues maybe?).

I heard the sound of rushing water or a loud peal of thunder, like that of harpists playing their harps.

When I think of a person I generally think of their handshake, or their eyes, or how they smile.

Are we all that way, seized by particulars and held by them? And do we claim our place based on that? Here’s what Walter Brueggemann said, beginning a book on land:

Place is a space which has historical meanings, where some things have happened which are now remembered and which provide continuity and identity across generations. Place is space in which important words have been spoken which have established identity, defined vocation and envisioned destiny. Place is space in which vows have been exchanged, promises have been made, and demands have been issued …

Place is also a protest against an uncompromising pursuit of space. It is a declaration that our humanness cannot be found in escape, detachment, absence of commitment, and undefined freedom … A pursuit of space may be an escape from history, but yearning for a place is a decision to enter history with an identifiable people in an identifiable pilgrimage. (Brueggeman, The Land: The Place as Gift, Promise and Challenge in Biblical Faith, p. 4)

Give me some space! I bet we’ve all thought and sometimes said just those words. And also, “I need a place to land, a place to stand, a place to start from.” I’ve said that too, lots of times. And with the caveat that he’s still the sole owner, God grants both these gifts to all his kids.

The Lord’s are the earth and its fullness, the world and those who dwell in it. He founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord, and who may stand in his holy place?

Climb to the top of a lonely mountain. Walk a quarter mile and stand in the middle of a sun-filled yellow wheat field. Paddle a kayak over wave after wave along the shore to a rocky canal into a still, blue lagoon.

In Kentucky near the Abbey of Gethsemani I walked into a field of canola, yellow flowers in the spring, not far from Thomas Merton’s hermitage. I sat down and wrote awhile before going back to sit in the rocker on Merton’s porch. But that night I visited the local pharmacy, because my eyes were stinging and tearing and I could barely close them. Oh, well. I got some space, and made a place. And I remember that day with joy.

He shall receive a blessing from the Lord, a reward from God his savior. Stay awake!

(Revelation 14, Psalm 24, Matthew 24, Luke 21)


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