We're about to dive deeply in Mark's gospel account, so we celebrated Christmas with the closest thing Mark has to a nativity scene: Jesus' baptism in the Jordan in Mark 1:1-11. What?! No sweet little 8-pound 6-ounce baby Jesus? Can it be Christmas otherwise?
Filtering by Category: Advent to Epiphany 2014
Jumping ahead to Jesus's adulthood, we remember his cousin John, a few months older, the one who read Isaiah and audaciously thought the prophet's words were probably meant for him. We used the scant outline of John's ministry from John 1. And we thought about the Isenheim Altarpiece; photos below.
Caroline Acco & Michala Mabry
a homily for their wedding, 12/17/2014
Marietta, Love County, Oklahoma
Mark 4:1-2, 21-23: Again [Jesus] began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: …“Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”
One thing Jesus was terrible at was keeping secrets. If you had something really private, really embarrassing, something really scandalous or dangerous in your life, and you wanted to keep it quiet, you had best stay away from him, because he would spill the beans every single time. Remember the Samaritan woman he talked to at the well that time, the one who had been married multiple times and was living with someone she wasn’t married to, and how Jesus sniffed it out and made her talk to him about it? Remember the woman who sneaked up behind him in a huge crowd, just to touch his clothing, so she could be healed in secret, only Jesus stopped the whole parade to call her out?
Remember how, as his ministry became more and more threatening to the powers that be, his followers urged him to lay low, but instead Jesus planned his own welcoming party, rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, right up to the steps of the temple, just to show that he could? Maybe, if he had attracted only a few followers, maybe, if they had settled quietly in a little town in northern Galilee, he could’ve kept teaching about the reign of God indefinitely. He wouldn’t have pissed off enough people, wouldn’t have been close enough to the religious and government bullies, to get himself killed. But Jesus was terrible at keeping secrets.
One thing Jesus knew about us, though, is that we are always trying to hide stuff away. Sometimes we try to conceal our imperfections, our mistakes, our bitter broken hearts, our sin. But sometimes, and this is the real kicker, we try to hide away other people who don’t conform to our expectations, people whose lives we think are out of bounds and disallowed. We turn people into secrets that we think we can keep.
Jesus was always finding the ones that society was keeping hidden. Like the lepers who were kicked out of their homes and villages and sent into the wilderness to live apart from regular people. Like the tormented man who was excommunicated by his whole town, sent to the graveyard to suffer alone. Like the women and the children in the crowds who came out to see him, who were expected to sit quietly, not say a word, while the men worked out what was happening and what to do next.
Jesus had an eye for the hidden ones. Jesus had a heart for the hidden ones. “Who would light a lamp and then put a basket over it?” he would ask his disciples as he welcomed a shy, smiling outcast into his arms. “Who would light a candle and then put it under the bed? There are no secrets with me. Nothing hidden, except to be disclosed.” With Jesus, no human being could be hidden away from his loving heart. With Jesus, no human being was ever kept secret.
Caroline and Michala, I feel like for many years our society, with the collusion of our government and our churches, has been saying to you, “It’s okay for you to be together, to get a dog together, to make a home together, to spend your lives together. But we don’t want to acknowledge it. We don’t want to be part of it. We won’t ask, if you won’t tell, and we’ll all be happy keeping this secret together.” There has been no public way for your marriage to be made known. Somehow, we imagined that a small, quiet, secret life together would be good enough for you.
The problem with that plan is, we didn’t understand until recently how bright you shine. We failed to notice for a long time that the two of you fairly glow in the dark. The love you share is a shining beacon, a warm flame of light that sparkles and shimmers against the gloom of our broken world. You shine because you love; you shine because you are beautiful, exactly as God made you, exactly as you have discovered each other.
And Jesus tried to tell us it would be futile to try and hide a light like yours under a basket, or under the bed, or under the laws of any state that tries to regulate love, or under the rules of any religion that tries to ration love. Jesus tried to tell us that with him, there aren’t any secrets. He is in the exposure business. He is in the coming out business. He is in the lamp-lighting and light-uncovering business. He is in the business of love, love just like yours; and so we have finally come to the day when your light is revealed for all people to see and acknowledge. We are finally ready – the justice system in most of our country is ready, the church you have helped build is ready – to recognize what has been true for a long time: you are shining in the light of God’s glory. It’s about damn time.
Michala and Caroline, please hear me say this on behalf of so many people who would love to be here with us today: your marriage is good for us. Your love is good for the world. We would be fools to turn our backs on such a tenderhearted, generous, Christlike couple. We have been fools to even try.
But in the face of our foolishness, the two of you have just kept on shining. Your light has never gone out. I don’t know how you did it, but I have to think that it’s a sign of God’s Spirit in you. And I have to think that Jesus is doing a little happy dance right now, watching our little party lift the bushel basket off of your life together so you can light up the world with your love. Let it shine, friends. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
Mary: her own personal catastrophe, her own personal redemption, and the redemption of the whole world. How does she know this stuff? How do we not? Luke 1:39-56.
Elizabeth took one look at her pregnant, unwed, teenage cousin and said, "Aren't you lucky!" Zechariah, confronted with good news in the holiest place on earth, said, "It can't be true." It's Advent, and for this season (extending through Christmas and Epiphany) we're paying attention to the people who make up the supporting cast for the coming of our Lord. "Lord, come quickly."