Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Today’s text

Luke 3:16-17


John declared before them all, 'I baptize you with water, but someone is coming, who is more powerful than me, and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandals; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fan is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.'

Reflection

Sometimes you don’t get what you expect. Sometimes it’s better.

John seemed to expect a larger version of himself. What came was of a different order altogether, not a fiery prophet railing at sin but an enigmatic mystic who spoke intimately of the Father and invited souls to see the rule of forever in the work of his hands and the sound of his voice.

Some heard. Some couldn’t imagine the kingdom of God was anything like a guy who ate with chippies and Roman collaborators and gave hell to those who tried to protect the eroding moral order with God’s ancient law.

If this is a winnowing out of the unholy and unworthy, it cut in a different direction than anyone expected. Those who were in were out; those who were up were down, and those who were cocksure of themselves ended up looking into the little circle around Jesus, excluded by their own lack of heart.

It was heart more than anything else that Jesus called for. Those who could love--and see their want of love--found repentance and entrance into a circle of grace where the rule of forever is taken in with every breath.

And John is right: no one is worthy of untying the sandals of this Jesus for whom we wait and long. But it doesn’t matter. Jesus isn’t much into bowing and scraping.

He invites us near to share his Spirit, the Spirit that made the day and fashioned the sun and loved you and all creation into being.

Catch a bit of that, and you know what fire is.

Pr. David L. Miller

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Today’s text

Luke 3:15


A feeling of expectancy had grown among the people, who were beginning to wonder whether John might be the Christ … .

Reflection

That expectancy is your gift, Holy One. I have lived without it on far too many days, and I want no more of those. But today this is of no concern. Expectancy is natural as a sunrise on new snow, fresh as December’s bracing cold.

I know that you are its source, and I can name the means through which you invigorate my old soul. Again, yesterday, you placed in my way real souls bearing the pain of their existence.

I am not thankful for their pain but for the courage with which they name it, the vulnerability that let them share it, the beauty of tenderness with which they feel their sorrows, the gentleness with which they care for their beloved, and the hope which brought them to seek elusive healing.

For those things I stand straight and praise you for the wonder of human souls and the privilege of caring for them. They invite me to what is most real in life, what is most important and to you.

For we discover you as sit and listen, finding beauty and life, care and love amid broken hearts and shattered fragments of life. Conversations certainly don’t start there, but you always seem to appear, bringing laughter amid tears and gratitude for the small joys of being human. That laughter wipes all hopelessness from the horizon.

For all of it, thank you, but especially for the expectancy already awake in my early morning soul on days like this. Having known you yesterday I anticipate meeting you again, today.

I have no idea where or in whom, so come Lord Jesus, surprise me.

Pr. David L. Miller

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Today's text

Luke 3:8


Produce fruit in keeping with repentance, and do not start telling yourselves, "We have Abraham as our father," because, I tell you, God can raise Children for Abraham from these stones.

Reflection

The fruit you seek is the flow of your generosity and justice through the confines of our narrow lives.

Our inherent self-concern clogs the arteries of grace so that little reaches through us to the heart of need that always surrounds. Then there are moments when I just don’t want to be bothered.

A man pushes a card or a paper in my hand as I walk a busy street. My soul, heart and conscience tell me to stop; block the flow of pedestrians in the intersection. Take the card and give the man a couple of dollars. He’s homeless, or at least says he’s doing this for the homeless.

Who is to know? I doubt it’s a scam. He looks homeless. But then … is it?

The question passes through my mind in an instant. I push the card back into his hand and cross the street, trying to convince myself that this is a poor way to help the homeless. I give to other things, I think to myself.

All true. But my heart accuses me, allowing me no rest. And this morning my mind resists thinking about these words of John the Baptizer, as he calls me to do the works of a changed heart, a heart that belongs to the infinite generosity and immeasurable mercy of God--to you, Holy One, whom I need as much as my next breath.

The reasons for my uneasy conscience are obvious. The man with his cards reminds me (again) of my failure to be human. A street scene lasting less than three seconds rips away my civilized fa├žade, revealing the underlying selfishness that refuses mere inconvenience. I rush on to the next comfortable place that will welcome me, one of many that make my life so much easier than that of a guy selling cards on a December street corner.

It is no wonder God shows such favor to the poor. On city streets, their souls may be better or at least more accessible and honest than our own.

Pr. David L. Miller