God Made Flesh, God Mad Vulnerable

A Homily for Christmas

Texts: St. Luke 2:1-20


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, born of the Virgin in Bethlehem. Amen.

We’ll sing Silent Night in a few minutes. It’s a beautiful song, but I’m not sure it’s the most historically accurate. Certainly the shepherds quaked at the sight of the heavenly hosts singing “Alleluia.” But if you’ve ever been present for a birth, you know that they are not silent or calm affairs. For that matter, they’re not the squeaky-clean events of Christmas cards and paintings. Where is the Christmas card with the Blessed Virgin Mary exhausted and sweating while Saint Joseph wipes away the vernix? Technology has come far enough that I should be able to buy a nativity set with a little speaker playing the newborn Christ’s hungry screams.

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According to the Promise

A Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

Text: The Magnificat


Our Lady of Guadalupe, Basilica of St. Mary
Minneapolis 2017

Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who is and was and is to come. Amen.

Thus says the Lord to Abraham in Genesis 22:

I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.

The Blessed Virgin recalls this glorious promise as she sings:

[God] has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and his descendants forever.

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Doth Magnify the Lord: Advent 4C

Some Thoughts for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

Texts:

  • Old Testament: Micah 5:2-5
  • Canticle: The Magnificat (St. Luke 1:46-55) -or- Psalm 80:1-7
  • Epistle: Hebrews 10:5-10
  • Holy Gopsel: St. Luke 1:39-45*

*The Gospel lection is flexible as to guarantee that if the psalm is used in place of the Magnificat, the Blessed Virgin’s song of praise is still read.


Texts in Summary:

As we come to the end of Advent, we make a thematic shift. The lectionary had been pointing us ever forward to the eschaton – starting with apocalyptic imagery at the end of St. Luke’s Gospel and then with John the Baptist’s call to repentance and use of fiery imagery. Now, the RCL is putting everyone in their starting positions.

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Cultivated by Fire

A Homily for the Third Sunday of Advent

Text: St. Luke 3:7-18


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our coming Lord, who is cultivating us for the Kingdom. Amen.

Is there anything quite like fire? All it takes is flicking a match against a box to strike a flame. The initial light is so weak that even a child can blow out – but that same blaze can leave a burn that will “torment you throughout the night.” And that same small, delicate flame can quickly grow into a fierce and unquenchable fire threatening to destroy everything in its path.

In the unfolding climate crisis, we have seen larger and larger wildfires consume massive swaths of the Pacific coast, the mountain west, Alaska, Siberia, and Australia. Smoke from the fires can cover hundreds of miles, turning the sky a terrifying shade of hellish red, and send haze and smog thousands of miles further. These infernos threaten to devour everything they touch. In 2016, the Chimney Tops 2 fire in the Smoky Mountains destroyed more than two thousand structures. In 2020, wildfires destroyed more than 17,500 structures in the US. And in 2018, the Camp fire in California destroyed nearly 19,000 buildings and killed 85 people.  It doesn’t take much – yes, downed powerlines and lightning strikes can start up a blaze, but even something as simple as a car driving over tall, dry grass can light a fire that will unleash scenes of hell on earth.

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Black, Blue, and Purple: Researching Advent Colors

Yesterday, I shared an old post on the debate over liturgical colors in Advent. After writing that post five years ago, I spent a few days digging through various liturgical guides to research the topic. (As is fitting of someone in their late twenties: write an article, then research it.) So today, I’m reposting the fruits of that week-long obsession compiled into a single post:

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Repentance and Fire: Advent 3C

Some Thoughts for the Third Sunday of Advent

Texts:

  • Old Testament: Zephaniah 3:14-20
  • Canticle: Isaiah 12:2-6
  • Epistle: Philippians 4:4-7
  • Holy Gospel: St. Luke 3:7-18

Texts in Summary:

We continue our Advent readings with a second week of John the Baptist.

It’s Gaudete Sunday, one of the two Sundays when rose is the appointed liturgical color. (If you’ve ever wondered why your Advent wreath has three purple or blue candles and one pink one, it’s for this weekend. This tradition is slowly falling out of favor, though. I know of exactly one Lutheran parish that even has rose-colored vestments, and more and more parishes are dropping “the pink one” from their wreaths.) The name comes from the Latin entrance chant, which in turn is taken from this week’s Philippians reading:

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Work to Do While We Wait

Originally posted December 5, 2016.


One of the fastest ways to start a light-hearted argument in a Lutheran church is to bring up the blue/purple debate around Advent.

Disclaimer: Results may vary. Author is not responsible for any threats of excommunication which may be incurred. Warning: Do not attempt on ELCA Clergy Facebook page as the debate may escalate quickly. Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.

Knowing that I’m treading into unduly controversial waters, let me throw a couple of cards on the table:

  • My background is in the United Methodist tradition. Growing up in the 90s and 00s, purple was still the preferred color for Advent. Purple for Advent brings back a lot of nostalgia. (Also, good Lord, am I old enough to have nostalgia?)
  • I’m convinced that the term adiaphora was coined specifically to resolve debates about liturgical colors. I can think of few things that matter less. Yes, colors have meanings attached to them, but these attachments are incredibly diverse. We’ll come back to this, but suffice it to say that the liturgical colors aren’t on the back side of the Ten Commandments. This is not a hill I’m willing to die on. In the end, if you want to send your altar guild on a shopping spree to buy a full set of blue vestments and paraments, go right ahead.
  • It’s adiaphor, but I’m still passionate about it.
  • I favor simplicity when it comes to vestments and paraments. Which is to say, vestments and paraments should be free of large, elaborate illustrations and words. (Looking at you, Gaspard.) In the same line of thought, the fewer sets needed, the better. If you can get away with using one set for two seasons, do it.
  • I’m not even going near the use of a rose candle and vestments for Gaudete Sunday. I don’t know why some people detest the rose candle so much, but they do. They’re wrong, but they do.

So…what color should we use for Advent?

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A Straight Path Through Badlands

A Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent

Texts: Baruch 5:1-9; Malachi 3:1-4; St. Luke 3:1-6


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who leads us into the coming Kingdom. Amen.

If you’ve ever been through badlands, you know what good news this. Badlands are areas where the topsoil has given way to soft layers of sedimentary rock – rock so soft that a single rainstorm can shift the landscape. Deep gullies drop down a hundred feet without warning and steep buttes and spires rise just as high. The terrain is so rugged that both the Lakota people and French-Canadian explorers dubbed them “bad land to pass over.” (I’ll spare us all the embarrassment of butchering the original Lakota and French pronunciations.)

Castle Trail, Badlands National Park, August 2016
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Prepare the Way in the Badlands: Advent 2C

Some Thoughts for the Second Sunday of Advent

Texts:

  • Old Testament: Baruch 5:1-9 -or-
  • Malachi 3:1-4
  • Canticle: The Benedictus (Luke 1:68-79)
  • Epistle: Philippians 1:3-11
  • Holy Gospel: St. Luke 3:1-6

Texts in Summary:

Sunday marks the beginning of Advent’s two-week interlude of John the Baptist. I appreciate the way the lectionary cycle uses John as a pivot from the eschatological focus towards preparation for the Nativity story. After beginning the year with the end of history, we jump backward to John’s ministry preparing the way of the Lord (which, chronologically, takes place after the Nativity) before moving even further back to various events leading up to Christ’s birth:

  • In Year A, we read St. Matthew’s account of the angels appearing to St. Joseph
  • In Year B, we take a break from Sts. Mark and John to read St. Luke’s account of the Annunciation
  • In Year C, we attend to the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Elizabeth (and get an extra peek at John the Baptist leaping in his mother’s womb)
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I Go – or Will Tomorrow

A Homily for the First Wednesday of Advent

Text: St. Matthew 21:23-32


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who is coming again in glory. Amen.

Today, I am tired, a bit behind on work and reading, and not in as a good a physical condition as I would like.

But tomorrow, I will be energetic, on top of my work, well read, and I will do all of those exercises I keep saying I’m going to get to.

Tomorrow, I will be more charitable, more patient, more steadfast in prayer.

Today Drew is a disaster. Tomorrow Drew is amazing.

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