Celebrating Sabbath

Note: Celebrating Sabbath is my attempt to start each week with a reminder of our identity: whose we are and who we’re called to be.

The obvious and only real choice today: the first – and still the best – Christmas song. Yep, Mary’s Magnificat. That is, the song Mary sings as she visits her relative Elizabeth, who is also pregnant. We are still striving to bring Mary’s radical vision to life.

Luke 1:46-55

Mary: My soul lifts up the Lord!
47 My spirit celebrates God, my Liberator!
48 For though I’m God’s humble servant,
God has noticed me.
Now and forever,
I will be considered blessed by all generations.
49 For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
holy is God’s name!
50 From generation to generation,
God’s lovingkindness endures
for those who revere Him.
51 God’s arm has accomplished mighty deeds.
The proud in mind and heart,
God has sent away in disarray.
52 The rulers from their high positions of power,
God has brought down low.
And those who were humble and lowly,
God has elevated with dignity.
53 The hungry—God has filled with fine food.
The rich—God has dismissed with nothing in their hands.
54 To Israel, God’s servant,
God has given help,
55 As promised to our ancestors,
remembering Abraham and his descendants in mercy forever.

Magnificat pic

Celebrating Sabbath

Note: Celebrating Sabbath is my attempt to begin the week with a reminder of our true identity: whose we are and who we are called to be.

Let’s reboot this series with the verses I’ve said should be our first responder, our top go-to text, our  new leadoff hitter:

Acts 10:34-35

Peter: 34 It is clear to me now that God plays no favorites, 35 that God accepts every person whatever his or her culture or ethnic background, that God welcomes all who revere Him and do right.

Celebrating Sabbath

Today is the final day of Advent, the time of waiting for the birth of Jesus. For Christians, Jesus is the Christ, aka the Messiah, aka the Anointed One, aka the Liberating King.

What sort of king will he be?

The words of Psalm 72, though ancient and not written about Jesus, give us insight into the kind of king God intends:

Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to a king’s son.
May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice.
May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness.
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the needy,
and crush the oppressor…

For he delivers the needy when they call,
the poor and those who have no helper.
He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.
From oppression and violence he redeems their life;
and precious is their blood in his sight.

The echo from those words can be heard around one thousand years later when Mary, Jesus’ mother, sang this song about who God is and who Jesus would be:

And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

O come, o come, Emmanuel!

Virgin Mary and Jesus, old Persian miniature. ...
Virgin Mary and Jesus, old Persian miniature. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Celebrating Sabbath

But as Jesus was coming out of the waters, He looked up and saw the sky split open. The Spirit of God descended upon Him like a dove, and a voice echoed in the heavens.

Voice: You are My Son, My beloved One, and I am very pleased with You.

…After John was arrested by Herod, who ruled the Jewish lands on behalf of Roman interests, Jesus went back into the region of Galilee and began to proclaim the good news of God.

Jesus: It’s time! The kingdom of God is near! Seek forgiveness, change your actions, and believe this good news!


Mark 1:9-15 from The Voice New Testament


Jesus from the Deesis Mosaic
Jesus from the Deesis Mosaic (Photo credit: jakebouma)




Celebrating Sabbath

What is salvation? Father Richard Rohr offers this fascinating take:

God-in-you already knows, loves, and serves God in everything else. All you can do is fully jump on board.

I would call that jump consciousness, and I believe the Risen Christ is the icon of full consciousness. In the human mind of Christ, every part of creation knows itself as (1) divinely conceived, (2) beloved of God, (3) crucified, and (4) finally reborn. He carries us across with him, assures us it is okay, and thus models the full journey and final direction of consciousness. That is my major thesis about how Jesus “saves us.” []

Celebrating Sabbath

More wise words from Father Richard Rohr. Reading his daily meditations helps me root each day in scripture, in truth, in God’s love.

All of Jesus’ guidance for ministry, his seeming “tips for the road,” are very concrete and interpersonal. They are all about putting people in touch with specific people, and especially with people’s pain. Person-to-person is the way the Gospel was originally communicated. Person-in-love-with-person, person-respecting-person, person-forgiving-person, person-touching-person, person-crying-with-person, person-hugging-person, person-hurting-person: that’s where the Divine Presence is so beautifully revealed. []


Celebrating Sabbath

More wisdom from St. Francis via Father Richard Rohr:

Overcoming the split of the mind from the body was probably easier for St. Francis because he wasn’t an intellectual. He was almost anti-intellectual because he saw what it did to so many clergy. They couldn’t touch reality anymore. They confused words with reality. Don’t fall in love with words. To this day, most of our arguments are over “your” words in agreement with “my” words. We have burned people at the stake for not having the right words. So, the alternative orthodoxy that is emerging is orthopraxy instead of verbal orthodoxy—lifestyle instead of just saying the right words.

The hegemony of the gnostic beliefs (mind-over-body, words-over-action, salvation-as-escaping-this-realm) is perhaps the most destructive influence of the Enlightenment upon the Church. Knocking those beliefs from pride of place is why I am so adamant about intentionally examining our religious practices, giving rise to my Redefining Liturgy sermon series.

Celebrating Sabbath

The Feast of Saint Francis was this week. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who didn’t like Francis. I mean, really, who doesn’t love him? (Well, I suppose war mongers and gnostics don’t. But I don’t think I’ve ever encountered anyone who openly self-identifies either way.)

The famous prayer of peace attributed to Francis is beautiful and powerful. I’m glad it is in song form in the United Methodist hymnal The Faith We Sing. We try to sing it in worship about as often as we can get away with.

Since he is a Franciscan friar, it is no surprise that this week’s meditations from Father Richard Rohr focused on brother Francis. As I am in the midst of a sermon series I call Redefining Liturgy, this reflection from Rohr seems especially appropriate:

This is the change of perspective that became our alternative orthodoxy—although it should have been mainline orthodoxy! He was merely following the movement of the Incarnation, since Christians believe that the Eternal Word became “flesh” (John 1:14), and it is in the material world that God and the holy are to be found.

Francis recognized and took to the logical conclusion the implications of the Incarnation. If God became flesh in Jesus, then it is in the world, the physical, the animal, in the natural elements, in human sexuality that God must be found. Speak of embodiment, physicality, and the world—use whatever words you want—these are the hiding places and the revelation places of God. This is how Christianity was supposed to change everything. Most of us just kept looking up, when God in Jesus had, in fact, come down. (This is the foundation of Franciscan mysticism.) On this day in 1226, Francis died at sunset and asked to lie naked and exposed on the earth as he died. The friars were embarrassed, but conceded to his wish. Now you know that it made total sense. […]

Peace be with us all.

Celebrating Sabbath

Today’s reading from Galatians chapter 5, The Voice version:

For the whole law comes down to this one instruction: “Love your neighbor as yourself,” – so why all this vicious gnawing on each other? If you are not careful, you will find you’ve eaten each other alive!

Here’s my instruction: walk in the Spirit, and let the Spirit bring order to your life. If you do, you will never give in to your selfish and sinful cravings.

…The Holy Spirit produces a different kind of fruit: unconditional love, joy, peace, patience, kindheartedness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You won’t find any law opposed to fruit like this.

I called today’s reflections on this passage Words Mean What They Mean…Until They Don’t: Redefining Liturgy, part 1. I hope to have video of the sermon up on Tuesday.

Celebrating Sabbath

The International Day of Peace (aka World Peace Day) was this week. Seems to me that everyday is a good – and important – day to pray for peace.

Of course, as the song says, if there is to be peace on earth, it must begin with me. My go-to prayer is a simple breath prayer (meaning it is said in rhythm with my breath):

Holy Spirit, fill me with your peace.

I find that the beauty of a breath prayer is that it can be used at anytime, anywhere, while in the midst of doing anything. No silence, darkness, candles, nor any other component typical of contemplative prayer is necessary.

Turning our focus to the world at large, The United Methodist Church’s Board of Global Missions offered this Prayer for Peace:

Gentle Spirit,

Breathe in us the wind of truth, wisdom and righteousness.

May your Presence inspire us to create labyrinths of peace.

Compassionate One,

Make our hearts burn with love, honoring all peoples and creation. […]