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Listen to the warm

by davesandel on January 15th, 2021

Friday, January 15, 2021                     (today’s lectionary)

Listen to the warm

Let us be on our guard while the promise of entering his rest remains. We who believe enter into that rest, to be with him whose works were accomplished at the foundation of the world.

In the presence of God who made the world, we come in from the northern Massachusetts storm. Driving snow is covering the roads and building up against the walls of our house. Our poet and landlord, Mr. John Greenleaf Whittier, struggles to get back home.

As night drew on, and, from the crest

Of wooded knolls that ridged the west,

The sun, a snow-blown traveller, sank

From sight beneath the smothering bank.

At last there is a knock at the door. We open it and see, standing in the blowing snow so we are barely able to make them out, there is Jesus with our frozen poet, waiting for our invitation in.

We will declare to the generation to come the glorious deeds of the Lord and his strength, that they too may rise and declare to THEIR sons that they should put their hope in God. Do not forget the works of the Lord!

And we do invite them in, and Jesus shakes  the snow off his sandals, takes off his cloak and hangs it on a chair. His robe, white itself like the driven snow, shimmers in the candlelight. “Come and sit!” we say, and we pour Jesus and Mr. Whittier mugs of white hot chocolate with simple shots of peppermint schnapps.

We piled, with care, our nightly stack

Of wood against the chimney-back,—

The oaken log, green, huge, and thick,

And on its top the stout back-stick;

In our rockers we encircle John Greenleaf Whittier’s fireplace, circa 1866, and settle down for conversation. The fire is laid, and now we wait, snowbound and covered in our lap blankets, for the blaze to burst forth.

Shut in from all the world without,

We sat the clean-winged hearth about,

Content to let the north-wind roar

In baffled rage at pane and door,

While the red logs before us beat

The frost-line back with tropic heat.

What matter how the night behaved?

What matter how the north-wind raved?

Blow high, blow low, not all its snow

Could quench our hearth-fire’s ruddy glow.

What will Jesus and our wise friend share? We clamor for their stories. What have you seen in the distance through the storm? Where have you been, and who have you been talking to? Who are you really? And what were you before? What did you do and what did you think?

In Capernaum so many gathered to hear Jesus that there was no more room, and four men opened the roof and lowered down a paralytic to the feet of Jesus. “Child, your sins are forgiven,” Jesus said. And to quiet the scribes and their whispers, Jesus then said, “Which is easier, to say your sins are forgiven or to say to this paralyzed man, RISE, PICK UP YOUR MAT AND WALK!”

Both have seen men die and seen men live. Jesus has shown our poet the power of God’s love, and now he shows us too.

Alas for him who never sees

The stars shine through his cypress-trees!

Who, hopeless, lays his dead away,

Nor looks to see the breaking day

Across the mournful marbles play!

Who hath not learned, in hours of faith,

The truth to flesh and sense unknown,

That Life is ever lord of Death,

And Love can never lose its own!

The flames flare up in their fireplace, and the dry oak wood sizzles and pops. All of us are silent, thinking of the far off living room in Capernaum, and the broken man waiting for Jesus to turn back to him, for him to speak the words of healing and give him back his legs. We remember our own paralyses, so much more than once lost in despair or fear or anxious helplessness. We hold our breath. We look at Jesus. We feel how much we’re loved.

Then Jesus said, “Rise, pick up your mat, and go home,” and the once paralyzed man did rise, and he did pick up his mat, and he went away in everyone’s sight. All were astounded and glorified God.

As do we. We exhale in sudden and complete relief. Our lives are worth living, and Jesus’ love carries us all.

We have never seen anything like this.

(Hebrews 4, Psalm 78, Luke 7, Mark 2)

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