For the Fathers Without

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Dear God, you fathered a world, humanity created in your image, then you fathered a nation, and a peoples. Eventually you fathered the Son who would show the world dutiful devotion, even when his brothers and sisters turned on him, you loved them all.

I celebrate the father’s without shame today. Those that have accepted, loved, sought understanding and pride despite the hardships of life. Who acknowledged children without a marriage certificate or the approval of their families, despite pressures of the outside world, who fought to show their children they loved them.

For the first without fear of diaper changing, spit up or “breaking the baby”. For dreams which are not reality in tiny human form. For the Fathers without their names on birth certificates who raised children to be outstanding human beings. Who spread love without fear.

If only it were all that easy, but it’s also all that hard. Today my heart breaks for the fathers without. They are men who have seen the spectrum of heartbreak and overwhelming joy.

For those who are fathers without children. Men who could struggle with infertility, for men who were born without male parts, for men who make the decision to not have children, yet live in sadness, I lift them to you. They mourn the expectation, the hope of the birth, the overwhelming love.

Like the Parodical father, you wait for us to return to you. But my heart aches today for the fathers whose sons and daughters will never return. Gunned down, threatened, beaten for the color of their skin, their bodies, or whom they love. For the sons and daughters to never return home because of drugs, a bomb or drunk driver. The children lost and taken, abused and broken.

For the children who will never see their fathers again. For those who grieve the loss of a harsh man, for those who mourn the kindest, gentlest soul they knew. For the last Father’s Day with, for the first without. For everyday in-between this Sunday in June where he heart aches.

I pray for those who yearn for connection but have been rejected due to their father’s shame. For those who put doctrine above relationship. For those who refuse to understand, for those who judge too harshly, for those who cannot take the log out of their own eye. For those fathers and children who just can’t right now.

For the fathers without today, his children in someone else’s care, his children taken from the world too soon, his children estranged, his children nonexistent. I mourn for you and with you. God hold them in your care, love them, protect them, watch over them.

This is my prayer, Amen.

Beloved

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About a year ago a parishioner asked to see me after worship. We went into my office after most people had left and seemed nervous.

I have a lot of respect for this woman. When I first came to the church we met together and through tears she said, “I wanted to be a support to you. I really believe something special is happening and I want to be part of it.”

She wrote me notes through my divorce voicing love and support. In summertime she brings me beautiful flowers from her garden. She feels deeply, and is aglow with the spirit every time I see her.

She also carries struggle and hardship like any of us do. She wears her heart on her sleeve, but privately. She cries or laughs during sermons and I know it’s all genuine.

So here we were, alone in my office and she looks down at her hand. She told me that one day she was in a Christian Bookstore, and checking out next to the register was this small pile of rings. It almost called to her.

She bought this thin piece of silver with “Jesus”printed around it separated by the Jesus fish. It was on her finger and she was fiddling with it.

“I love this ring and I don’t want to give it up, I don’t know why, but God calling me to give it to you.”

I’ve been in this moment, I know what it’s like. God told me to do something but when I speak it out loud I worry that it would seem trite, or the person would reject my gift meaning I got the message wrong.

I took the ring, thanking her, I believed that she had a call to give it to me.

She told me that when she put it on each day she would just do it and walk out the door. Then she remembered that some days she would notice that she really needed God and would observe that “Jesus” was pointed at her so she could read it, and other days it was pointed outward so if she placed her hand out to another, they would be able to read “Jesus” and on these days she would pay attention on where others needed the love of God.

At that time in my life there was no question I needed Jesus. So I purposefully for a while put it on my hand facing me. Then I noticed slowly that I wasn’t paying as much attention in the morning, and sometimes it would face me and other days it would face the world. I remember my friend’s observation.

I would smile.

About a week ago God told me it was time to give my ring away. “no, I told God, I love this ring and I don’t want to give it up.”

I have been wearing it on my left hand ring finger, where my once wedding ring used to sit. I would wear it along with a ring my best friend gave me and it was a reminder that I was not alone, that I was someone’s beloved.

It reminded me, in the loneliest of moments that I belonged and was deeply loved. By friends and a community.

It’s been a week since God wrote on my heart a name of a woman who now needs it. I wish I could give it to her in person, but I will have to mail it, and this morning I asked for her address. I wanted to write this for two beautiful women today. One who God worked through to remind me I was beloved when I felt unlovable and one who God wants to know is lovable and beloved.

I pray she feels the sense of belonging I felt when wearing it. I pray that when she no longer needs it, even though that may not be until her dying day, that God will write on her heart who might need it next.

Thank you Kimbrea, I love you too. Rebecca, here you go sweetheart, I love you.

(Wo)man in the Mirror

In 1987 Michael Jackson released “Man in the Mirror” a single that in many ways, was a riff on Gandhi’s “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

At about 7/8 years old I did not know Gandhi’s quote, but I did know Michael. And I took this song very seriously. I wanted to change, I was desperate for it. If I could change all of my problems would be solved. I lived in a world where, true or not, the perception was that everything was my fault. If I could only change my ways, all would be right in the (my) world

What do you do to change? The southern baptist girl asked: You pray.

When I first learned to pray I prayed in a child-like way. I prayed as a way of stalling before bedtime. Every friend, family member, dog or cat I could think of. I once prayed for all the animals in the zoo.

One day, as a teenager, my youth leader was talking about prayer. He asked us, “when’s the last time you prayed for yourself?”

I had never prayed for myself. Not really.

I had prayed for things, but not for myself. I prayed for a bike, to be smart, to be thin, but never “for” myself. Never thanking God for the person that is me (Baptists would NEVER have done that). But this progressive mystical Presbyterian youth leader challenged us to go home, stare at ourselves in the mirror, look directly into our eyes and say:

“I am a beloved child of God, with me, God is well pleased.”

I went home and looked in the mirror, put my face as close to it as possible and stared in my eyes… for about 1 second. Then I quickly left the bathroom. Each day I would try again. Crying. Until it was a regular practice. Then one day it stopped again.

So years later I went back to it. And I stopped again.

Today I read a prayer today that reminded me of this practice. It’s found in the book “The Way of Simplicity: The Cistercian Tradition” by Esther De Waal:

The bodily appearance of the Lord was changed as he prayed

and thereby he wished to bring home to your mind the power of prayer,

because prayer

makes you different in your inmost being and meditation

changes you into a new self

and renews you.

‘With our unveiled faces reflecting like mirrors the brightness of the Lord’ says Paul,

‘we are turned into the image which we reflect’,

that is, we are transformed

into the very image we gaze upon.

I stopped because I started seeing someone else’s image of me more important than my own or, most importantly than God’s.

Why should staring at God’s creation be so difficult?

It has gotten so bad that I avoid mirrors all together. The demon creeps back, “How can anyone be friends with you? have a conversation with you? Look at you? I mean… LOOK at you, you’re disgusting” The demons are mean.

But it’s time.

Tonight I will close the bathroom door and stare into the mirror. Even if it’s for one second. I would never allow anyone to teach my children (God’s beautiful creation) this way, why would I allow myself? It has to stop.

I will look into the woman in the mirror and I will tell her who she really is. Once she believes it, she can start changing her ways to act like it.

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Those Who Can’t Do… Preach

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It’s a funny thing we do, worship. It’s silly really. For an hour (or so) a week we go into a room full of stained glass and a giant cross and stand and sit and stand and sit in uncomfortable rows known as “pews”. Which I still to this day think sounds like a dirty word…

On the last day of UNCO15 East I was sitting in the back of the room behind a computer watching a room full of worship leaders worship collaboratively. I have always said that UNCO is some of my favorite worship I have ever experienced, but each time that has happened, I have been helping to lead the worship.

I was still “participating”, running the powerpoint, but I was reminded how strange and uncomfortable to sit through worship. I am always amazed when parishioners ask me “I don’t know how you do it up there”. The truth is, I don’t know how you do it. How do I stop from feeling uncomfortable? I “do” things. Worship especially. It’s uncomfortable, its vulnerable, it scary.

A friend who is a pastor said to me the other day that he had no interest in teaching people how to worship, if you’re in church you should already know. “I have no idea how to worship,” I retorted, “that’s why I lead it.”

I speak truth here. I often begin “prayers of the people” in worship with “Jesus taught us not only to pray for ourselves, but to pray for others.” I don’t know how to pray for myself, that’s why I pray for others.

There’s really not much more to it than that. I’m a pastor who doesn’t know how to worship or pray, that’s why I do it.

Because worship and prayer are hard. The faith thing? Those who can’t believe, pastor.

It’s too personal for me, this thing that is God, worship, faith. I have to “do something” to keep myself from becoming too open, too vulnerable, too moved. Too anything is bad. or is it?

I know a man who lived a tragic life, it was a heartbreaking story. A few of us knew it. He struggled. He was a single man in his 40’s that worshiped and found community in the church, we were his family. But still, in the midst of worship he sat by himself while everyone else sat with their families.

On Christmas Eve during Silent Night he would sob openly and loudly.

You can imagine the comments. This is everyone’s “favorite moment of the year”. This is “the most meaningful moment in all of worship” (pastor eye roll).

Sometimes he would sob alone, another year someone would wrap their arms around him, some of the people in the room “tolerated” it, others cried too, because his sorrow brought out their own. Others looked with empathy, but went about singing merrily.

Worship is uncomfortable, but it is so because (if we’re doing it right) you have permission to be exactly where you are in life at the moment you are experiencing it, to have permission to feel all the feels and think all the thinks. And you’re doing it in front of other people, in a stained glass room full of people.

If I don’t occupy myself in preaching, praying and logistics of worship, I would sob and weep openly.

Every pastor I know who has left church for one reason or another struggles with “attending” worship. Most parishioners I know couldn’t imagine “leading” on a weekly basis.

I need worship. My soul needs to worship. I need to sit and stand and sing and laugh when I say things like “Our scripture lesson this morning comes from the Gospel according to Mike.”

I need to celebrate wins with a community, I need to mourn my grief in public. I need to gather for an hour every week and pray for you, preach the Word of the Lord, administer the sacraments, and ask forgiveness on behalf of the world which is in so much pain.

Worship is terribly hard, if you’re doing it right. I’m not sure I am. And those who can’t do… preach.

Quitter

Something’s about to happen. Today a long awaited dream is about to come true. No, I’m not getting married (SO not ready for that…) I’m done having children, it’s something else, not bigger, not better, different.

Today a dream comes true.

After three years of hard work on a project (and years of work from people before that) the next steps are about to happen, and it’s amazing. There are hundreds of people that have made this possible, thousands of dollars, countless hours of hard work. Today 7 people will gather in a room and talk and I cannot sleep from excitement.

So why is it than when I awoke at 5:15 this morning all could hear is a voice in my head say, “you quit everything you’ve ever started?” Really? The demons are starting early this morning and they know right where to hit me.

I’m a quitter.

I pretend to claim it proudly. I quit things that are not worth it.

For years music was my life; I ate, slept, drank, breathed music, for all the wrong reasons. I have blogged about music over and over again. I love music, there is no doubt. But I performed it because I was good at it, not because I loved it. I was “successful” at it, it was my drug. I will always be thankful for music because it saved my life, in more ways than one. By the end of high school I was practicing 5 hours a day. I was playing pieces people twice my age and talent dreamed of, and I hated ever second of it.

I remember nothing but people pushing perfection because I was “so talented.” I wanted to be bad at it. Yes, partially because i am sick and twisted, but I did it for all the wrong reasons. I needed someone to be proud of me, for something, anything, and this seemed to be the thing they were proud of.

I love my sister, and I watched her struggle hour after hour in practice, I watched her be rejected audition after audition, I would have gladly given her my spot. Today she is an amazing music educator, I am ridiculously proud. I could never do what she does, never, I would not survive.

When I gave up a career in music and went to seminary I was called a quitter. I was told I was throwing my life away, a lofty career. In what? I thought. In self hate? Because that’s where this was going, I was already there.

Every time I see a dream succeed the demons return. I’m a quitter. I’ll find a way to turn success into failure.

Maybe this is why I’ve always loved the idea of community so much. If a group succeeds it’s the success of the group. If there’s a failure on the part of the group, I’ll take the blame in public (and usually blame everyone else in private but that’s a different confession for another time).

The book of James says that all boasting is evil, and okay… whatever. But I will say this. I never want credit for success because I am terrified that every thing I touch will fail. How sick is that?

It’s sick, but it’s true.

Today a dream comes true, I will try, I promise, to bask in the glory. I will try, I promise, to that the people who made it possible, and I will, to the best of my ability, try to not consider myself a quitter. This was not an easy task, I had a TON of help. Thanks be to God. Amen.

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Hot Dog Buns & Smushed Up Grapes

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This Sunday I got to do something very special. Something near and dear to my heart. I got to serve 3 children communion for the first time. It was icy and snowy Sunday and therefore had about half out normal size for the 11:00 service. We decided to gather around the table to serve communion. As we did the three siblings were brought by our Christian educator to stand in the circle with us.

After the prayer she started mouthing something to me. The elder next to me asked what was going on, I told her, “I have no idea.” Finally, I figured it out. The children had never taken communion before. Their parents were standing next to me, I asked them if they could, the mom asked me if they could. “Yes!” I quickly answered.

This family has been attending our church for about 6 months, I had noticed before that the kids hadn’t come forward during communion. The mom told me the kids had been baptized and I knew the kids had an understanding of God and faith.

It didn’t need to be me “the pastor” to give them their “first communion” that is not our faith about the table, but I wanted to do it. As the plate and cup made it’s way around the circle I knelt before the kids. “Mom won’t let us!” the middle one told me. “Mom said it was okay” I told him. All 3 of them leaned around me to look at their parents. Mom gave the head nod.

As the plate and cup approach I ask them if they believe in God, I tell them that the bread and cup are one of the many ways God reminds us that Jesus loves us and was God on earth. Do you believe that?

The older two shake their heads yes. The youngest looks at me and says, “I don’t want any juice!” I smile, “It’s just grape juice, you don’t like grape juice?” He shakes his head no. “Well, then just dip the very corner in and you’ll never know.” We talked about saying “amen” or “thanks be to God” afterward.

The plate and cup arrive. I stopped and turned to the circle, “everyone this is the [family name]’s first time taking communion. The organist stopped, they all watched with the pride of family. I said each of their names and “the body of Christ, broken for you.” “The cup of salvation, poured out for you”. The youngest dipped just the corner in the cup and smiled reluctantly.

The super quick version of my story goes like this: I was born to a Roman Catholic father and a Presbyterian mother. By the time I was 3 they were divorced and I split my time between the two churches, one week Catholic, one week Presbyterian. Mother remarried to a man  who was Methodist by his previous marriage, so one week Catholic, one week Methodist. After some time they left the Methodists and we went to the Southern Baptist Church (the church my step-father was raised in). You guessed it. One week Catholic, one week Southern baptist…

But not for long. I was 8 or 9 and my interest in church was waining. Dad had stopped taking us to the catholic church after he moved away and let’s just say the Southern Baptist church and I never really got along.

But some rituals of the churches stuck. Prayer, worship, reading of scripture, and surprising one… first communion.

Here’s what I remember about communion: It was off limits. I remember my grandmother (an life long Irish-Catholic) specifically telling me on Christmas Eve to “stay here” and how awkward it was to have people step around us to get out of the pew. I was in the nursery at The Presbyterian Church during communion and the Methodists went forward and knelt at the altar fence (sorry, I’m sure it’s called something great and awesome, but as a kid that’s what I thought it was!) and it seemed weird to me.

I was thinking about it this morning. I don’t EVER remember communion in the Southern Baptist Church. I really don’t. My family attended there over 10 years and not once do I remember having communion. Really not surprising, but interesting given people who put so much emphasis on the blood of Jesus.

ANYWAY…. time went on and I never took communion. I had never received my “first” and therefore wasn’t allowed.

My First Communion: At 16 I started attending the Presbyterian Church (again) by myself. I was just there to sing in the choir, but eventually I went to youth group. I was on a mission trip. We were working in a church in Eastern Kentucky, the Appalachian Mountains, the poorest part of the country and the Youth Pastor and I were discussing the whole communion thing.

“I don’t take communion” I explained. He went through a dissertation on why as Presbyterians we believe all who have been baptized and believe in God are allowed to participate in communion. It was the first time I heard the phrase “open table”.

I was not buying it.

I don’t know, I needed it to be special. Eventually, he figured this out. “What if we did it here, just us (meaning the youth group) just your friends, your adopted family, what if you let us make it special?” I reluctantly agreed, I saw my grandmother’s face telling me to “stay here.” I took a deep breath.

Everyone gathered in a circle and we waited, there was commotion in the kitchen, my youth pastor and one of our adult leaders argued a little. A few minutes later they come out, looking sheepish. The youth pastor prayed, prayed for me, for our group work, talked about the great things God had done, for the body and blood of Christ, for the spirit to descend.

That’s when we realized, all of us, what the commotion was about. “On the night of his arrest Jesus took the bread…” we giggled, the only bread they could find, the body of Christ in that moment, were hot dog buns. “…He blessed it and broke it and gave it to them saying…”

“In the same way when the meal was over he took the cup…” He held up a styrofoam cup, and poured the contents of the cup into another styrofoam cup. It clumped and splashed. It was strange.

He walked up to me and said, “Shannon, the body of Christ broken for you” I looked down and tore off a piece of hot dog bun, and dipped it into the cup. They had been unable to find grape juice, but they did have grapes, which they had quickly smushed with a fork. I smiled. It was exactly what it should have been.

It tasted terrible, but it was one of the most precious moments of my life. Jesus is the body and blood of this Holy Communion, even if the visible sign comes in the form of a child who doesn’t like grape juice, or comes in the form of hot dog buns and smushed up grapes. Thanks be to God, Amen.

Lenten Devotional 2015

IT’S FINALLY DONE!!!! And today I got an email from a group asking me to write one for them. I almost said no, but I’ll do it. Of course I will, because, you know, as hard as it was, it was fun too… So, if you so chose, here is my Lenten devotional on Wonder in the Wilderness. Enjoy.

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She Loves Me…

She loves me not…She loves me… She loves me not.

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“I love you” They’re the greatest 3 words in the world. I love you, SO much. There is nothing sweeter to hear or as sweet to say, I love you.

I type these words through watery eyes, tears streaming down my face. I’m learning an important thing about myself. I need someone to love.

It is common wisdom today to say that one cannot love another without truly loving themselves. Do you agree? I’m not sure that I do.

When I first fell in love I had no love or self-respect for myself. See this post if you missed it. I loathed myself, but seeing myself in the eyes of another helped me to fall in love with myself. But it’s not enough.

I’m alone, I’ve hit several “rock bottom’s” over the last year. I begged and pleaded my husband not to leave me, not to leave our family. I offered to compromise myself and my beliefs just to keep it together. I’ve gotten drunk and had a couple “close calls”. A voice in my head told me to have some self-respect, but it hurt too much. I don’t know how to love myself without someone to shower that attention on. Even as I write this there is a voice in my head saying that isn’t really love, it’s selfish, but I’m not so sure.

I need to love. It’s not like a drug or alcohol in terms of need, it’s a need as in my need for air.

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; … 11Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. –1 John 4:7, 11-13

I do love myself, I do respect myself, but I do it through acceptance of people I know and trust, people whom I love and whom love me. I learned to love from their love. It’s the incarnation of God, it’s the movement of the Spirit, it is the nature and essence of love. I need someone to love, and not just anyone.

Today I’m in Atlanta, I’m taking another doctoral class. It’s called The Bible and the Ecology of Wonder, cool, right? right… so… yeah.

In the middle of class today we were watching a video of astronauts talking about their awe of the moments they were in space looking at the earth and the “heavens.” As you can imagine they were describing deep and profound senses of wonder and awe, even if they didn’t use the words, they were describing an experience of God, the experience of something so vastly beyond themselves, yet felt so rooted and deeply connected to it.

I started to get emotional during the video, like… really emotional.

I suddenly realized I hadn’t been standing in wonder recently. “Wonder also requires courage” our professor had said in an example of one definition. I kept rolling and rolling around the idea, staring at the astronauts from their suits and shuttles and lunar modules. Wonder also requires a safety, a grounding, I pondered.

You have to feel free to wonder, but in order to truly feel free, you have to feel safe enough to allow your mind, your heart, your imagination to soar. If you are paralyzed in fear you are not wondering. You have to move past the fear in order to feel free enough to be in awe, reverence, or curious. You have to have the courage to let yourself go.

I’ve cried most of this afternoon knowing that I do not feel that freedom, I am paralyzed in fear. I am afraid to allow my imagination to soar because I no longer have my net, I no longer have my grounding, I no longer feel courageous. Because I no longer have a person to pour my love into that I knew, or at least thought, that I could always count on. That I had exposed myself to on every level. Who knew every dream, every fear, every flaw. Even if he didn’t, he did.

I had someone to love, who loved me, or so I thought, to allow me the sacred gift of feeling safe in order to allow myself to soar, in order to allow myself to move beyond fear.

Some will tell me I have to find that grounding in myself, but here’s the simple truth. I don’t want to. And I don’t think I’m meant to. I want to share my life, I’m meant to share my life.

I can love my kids and they can love me, but I cannot make my kids my life partner. I have a best friend whom I love tremendously and she would help me bury a body if need be, but she cannot be my everything either. Not only would the body we bury have to be her husband’s, but we would end up miserable for a variety of reasons.

There’s a song we used to sing to the kids in VBS:

“Love is something when you give it away, give it away, give it away, Love is something when you give it away, you end up having more.”

I miss wondering, being curious, and exploring – my faith, myself, another – it was an ongoing mystery, a courageous adventure, a wonder. I miss being allowed to love and expose my inner most self to someone fully. I feel incomplete, less human, sad without it. It’s not that some magic soul mate is going to come along and “complete me” it’s that in loving them, myself, and loving us love is perfected. For if we love one another, God lives in us and God’s love is perfected in us.

This is not just my faith, this is my experience, and my truth. This is who I am. I am a child of God, meant to share my life and my love.

Darkness to Light

The people

The people who walked

The people who walked in darkness

deep darkness

have seen

have seen

have seen a great light.

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One of my favorite moments of the whole year happens on Christmas Eve. Yes, you can probably guess it’s the singing of Silent Night with the candles, but probably not for the reason you think. It’s what happens right before it. When the world (or at least the church) is dark. Darkness. It’s a profound thing.

It is the symbol, the tangible evidence of everything that is lonely, scary, and sad.

The church goes completely dark and I sing the first verse of O Come, O Come Emmanuel, I speak the words of Genesis and John 1. When God proclaims light I strike a match. God said “Let there be Light” “Ptchhhh” the match strikes and flame appears, so vivid, so bright in the midst of the great darkness.

I’ve been walking in deep darkness this week. We lost a beloved member of our staff, it’s a crushing blow, he was my creative partner, my friend. He resigned to deal with a a crisis in his life. I’m heartbroken. I’m in the dark about where to go and what to do, about how to move forward.

Today as I watched the Advent Wreath be lit in the first service I realized that the first candle brings the most light. I’ve been reflecting on how this is the Hope candle. If you light a candle in the midst of darkness the room is flooded in light, no matter how small the light, any amount of light overcomes the darkness. It literally is painful on the eyes at first. It’s a miraculous things to watch, it’s one of the most beautiful images of God’s love I have ever witnessed.

But as you add to the light (as we did today) it’s not quite as satisfying as that first candle. We are making progress, the amount of light has literally been doubled, yet it is not as miraculous for some reason as when something was formed out of nothing. Yet again, there is a turn. On Christmas Eve we will light all five candles and then spread that light throughout the room and the light, the love of God entering the world is overwhelming.

I am always sad on Christmas Eve for those in the congregation, I wish they could see what I see. I see a room flooded with light, a candle illuminating each face, some smiling with their families proudly, some silently weeping from heartbreak. It is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. Each candle a representation of God’s love for them. Every candle a remembrance that the light shone in the darkness, and the darkness, the darkness cannot, will not, and shall never overcome it.

For the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. As we add to our candles each week this is my hope and my prayer. Amen.

Advent: Come Lord Jesus

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Tear gas engulfed the police and protesters in Ferguson, Mo., on Monday. Credit Jewel Samad/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

I can’t stop staring at this image.

The juxtaposition of light and dark. If glanced at it could look like Christmas lights.

Look again.

It could be blurred Christmas lights with haze.

But it’s not…

It’s tear gas, and machine guns, and gas masks, and the glare of shells on Rambo style rounds of bullets.

Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent, the first Sunday after the Darren Wilson grand jury decision and my timeline and news feed was full of comments from pastor friends and how they were addressing the decision. My sermon was written, it was finished before I left for vacation, the week before. It was on the hymn O Come, O Come Emmanuel and mentioned race, but in that quick and general way. It was about the darkness of the season and how we rush to cover up the darkness with twinkling Christmas lights. And then I read this article today, which contained the photo above. The article was good, but I stared and stared at the image.

We rush to cover the darkness…

As I write this a song plays “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent/Wondrous Love” a piano solo by David Burroughs. This is one of those instances where if I didn’t find embedded music that automatically played on websites so annoying I would do it. It’s only a sample, but click here, then go back to the image. There are no words in this version, but here is the first verse of the hymn.

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
and with fear and trembling stand;
ponder nothing earthly minded,
for with blessing in his hand
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
our full homage to demand.

I want to yell and scream, and if that’s what you need to do, do it. Yell. Scream. Amen!

But as I think about the darkness, the waiting, and the season of Advent – I cannot help but see the images, the images of people standing in silence with their arms raised.

“Don’t shoot,” with fear and trembling we stand.

David Burroughs combines this hymn with “What Wondrous Love is This.” An Advent hymn, with a Lenten one. Two seasons of waiting, waiting to receive our savior – our light in the darkness – and waiting for the end of the earthly journey. A journey that ends with injustice, injustice that was part of the political system. An injustice where the laws “worked accordingly.”

How does this advent end? When does this advent end? How many more lives will be lost? How many more tears will be shed? How many more images like this will appear?

I have no answers, only more questions and to simply say this: Come Lord Jesus, Guide our Way.