Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Change of Address

For those of you who have been following me on this blog, you will notice that I haven't posted in several months.  I have changed blog hosts.  If you want to continue following my thoughts about life find me at:  http://watchingthespaces.wordpress.com/

Thank you for your support.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

To Find the Christ

Epiphany Last, February 18, 2012, St. Christopher's Episcopal Church

Imagine a small mirror with the face of Jesus pasted on it, but with the face itself cut out, so that when you look at it your face is framed by the hair and shoulders of Jesus.  It sounds simple enough, but there is profound truth in the simple exercise.  Who is in the mirror?  You, yes, but also Jesus.  In the mirror you look like Jesus, and in a real way, it reminds us that Jesus often looks like you.  If Jesus sometimes looks like you, who else does He sometimes look like?  In truth, Jesus has hidden himself all over the world, at school, at work, at play, in lots and lots of other people—in fact, in everyone.  He appears in them—just for you.

In today's Gospel lesson Peter, James and John go up on a mountain with Jesus, and Jesus is transfigured there.  He goes all shiny and white, and Moses and Elijah, people from the Old Testament, come and talk with him.  It's a wonderful thing...they never knew that Jesus could be that way, but now they know.  They found a treasure, so to speak, and after the resurrection they realized what they had.  Then they wanted to talk about it, just like Jesus said.  They realized how hidden Jesus had been, and how He suddenly revealed Himself to them.

How does He reveal Himself to you and me today?  Finding Him is not really all that hard.  Things that make you smile, things that make you want to be good, things that make you feel like helping other people, things that make you excited about what is good in the world all point to His presence.  So go looking for these things, and then go talk about those things with other people, help them find these treasures as well.

Today is Mission Sunday, a day when we celebrate all the good things that are happening around town partly because of the time, talents and treasures of St. Christopher's Church.  This idea that Jesus hides Himself for us to discover helps us orient ourselves rightly to what this day really means.  We celebrate these ministries around town not just because we are doing these good things, though we are, we're just glad that good things are happening, and that we get to be a part of them.

My brother-in-law, Karisse's brother is a missionary in Africa.  He wrote in an e-mail about a year ago:

A blessing of being a missionary that few acknowledge is this:  The cross-cultural experience provides so much instruction concerning our Lord's Kingdom!  Given the original Greek text itself [not just the copies thereof that we possess] and possessing the very-best linguistic and exegetical skills on earth, I would NEVER have come to understand the meaning of Acts 15 . . . EVER!  Comprehension came only AFTER getting to know the Imaniya.  Through common grace, the image of our God is spread out across the kaleidoscope of humanity.  No one culture reflects all the facets of that image and; of course, even the sum does not reflect it perfectly.  However, exposure to many cultures and their expressions of worship, their understandings of what discipleship is and their definitions of truth gives one a much richer picture of who our Lord really is.  When I was fresh out of seminary, I could have done as a young man recently did; namely, refuse to work with a mission or national church that did not stress his interpretation of Calvinism and the place of women in the church and home.  Now I've come to realize that we are often seeing reflections from difference angles, refracted through diverse lens, of exactly the same Lord.  May I never judge another until I have stood where he is standing and looked through the same lens that he's accustomed to using.  Arden Almquist hit the nail on the head when he wrote [the book] Debtor Unashamed, his profession that he owed more to Africans than they did to him.  From them he had glimpsed perspectives of deity he would have totally missed in Chicago.

Mission is not first something we do, it is something we discover, something revealed to us, and then it is something we do in response.  We do not support these missions and ministries because we have something they don’t and need, which may actually be true, or because we feel sorry for people, though we might, or because it is our duty to help the poor and needy, though it is, or because we want to feel good about ourselves, which I hope we will.  All these things may be true, but they must not be the primary motivation for our action and generosity, because all these reasons are ultimately selfish and ego-driven.

We support these missions because in them we find goodness and holiness, and service to the world.  We support what they do because, like my brother-in-law, by means of participating in them we go breathlessly from discovery to discovery of different facets of the face of God.

This is another act of hunting the divine fox, to borrow words from Robert Capon, of teasing out of the maze of living, another heavenly surprise, and then, overjoyed at the pearl of great price we have found, we give ourselves to it.

So how should we then live?

Live expectantly:  Live in quiet expectation, willing to be surprised.  Anywhere you find goodness you have found God.

Live humbly:  Know that this is gift, purely, entirely gift, that you did not merit, and cannot earn, Which sets you delightfully free!

Live openly:  With your hands and hearts open to receive—whatever it is that the Good Lord gives, even if it is disguised under the wrappings of pain, for only by accepting everything in your life is a gift can only learn to see rightly.

Live generously:  Give of yourself, give of your time, talent and treasure, give of your heart.  You can never out-give the infinite heart of the God who lives within you.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Divine Fiber Optics

Epiphany 5, February 5, 2012, St. Christopher's Episcopal Church

This morning we baptize a little girl named Trinity.  I first met Trinity she was in her mother's tummy.  At that time her grandmother was very ill and in the hospital.  But her grandmother got better, and Trinity, almost as a sign of hope, was born.

Trinity, what a propitious name!  We normally reserve discussions of the Trinity for Trinity Sunday, and preachers around the church will wrestle with ways to cram what is in all senses a mystery into the small confined spaces in our heads.  Not this morning.  Trinity is a very fitting name.  If the word means anything to a Christian it must mean love.  Trinity, that holy community of the godhead, in which each person, distinct yet fully unified, dances with the others in a glorious dance of love, spinning out of the joy and love they mutually share, the very creation of which this little Trinity is a part.

That is a lot of big churchy words that I don’t even understand, so let’s break it down.  Out of love Trinity is born, of the love of her father and her mother, they were God's helpers in the creation of this beautiful little girl, created ultimately out of the loving, productive, and all-encompassing love of God.  The first thing we can say about Trinity, indeed, about us all, is that she is God's creation, brought forth through human parents by the love of God, and incredibly loved and desired by God.  This comes before original sin, this comes before evil, this comes before willfulness or pride or hurting one another or stealing toys or cookies.  This is first, primary, foundational and essential.

Now, Trinity came to the point in her tender life when she figure out that if she cried at just the right time she could make things happen.  Suddenly her own ideas about the world emerged, sometimes in opposition to the ideas of others.  She had discovered—her free will.  But that free will, like with all of us, began to distance her from those she loves.  There was what she wanted, and then there was what others wanted, and they weren't always the same, sometimes they were even mutually exclusive.  Oh, what to do!  Well, we all know what gets done!  “MINE!” –Oops!  The second thing we can say about Trinity, indeed, about us all, is that we messed it up.  But that does not obliterate or destroy the essential and primordial goodness that resides deep within.  It covers it over, it obscures her vision of it and ours.  It makes it hard for her to live as she once did, in innocence.  Baptism is the initiation of a journey back to the goodness within.

The third thing we can say about Trinity and indeed all the rest of us, is that we are on a journey back to the source, back to the love of God, known deep within our being and then lived out between one another.  It is a journey of learning to wash away all that clutters the view of that good, divine love that lives at the core of each of us.  It is learning to forget and remember, forget that which obscures, and remember the source to which we are called.

Maybe you could liken it to fiber optics.  God is the source light, we are the ends of the chords.  Anything that obstructs that light is our sin, and must be taken out of the way.  But the essential light is always there, the spark of divinity deep within each and every one of us, and indeed, in everything.  In baptism we recognize that God has already placed her little fiber into His glorious light, we ask God to wash away all that might obstruct a total and free transmission of light, and we promise to help her let her light shine brightly as she grows up.

In summary, Trinity, and the rest of us start out good, mess up and get broken, and get called onto the path back to the loving light deep within.

But it's a bigger concept than just baptism.  If we remember that at the core of each of us is something incredibly good, we can value each and every one of us as a potential window into the heart of God.  That goodness just might peek out at us at any moment, and we will see, first hand, up close and personal, the presence of the love of God.  Then we know that the hurt we dish out to one another is not the real us, but something else, the brokenness that we have chosen.  So we can hold one another's offenses lightly, and forgive easily—just as we have been forgiven.  And we can fearlessly, even recklessly, love one another and the world for Christ's sake.

Then we can look for God right in the midst of life.  We see Jesus in the midst of life in the Gospel today.  He heals the sick, He teaches the truth of God, and He casts out demons.  We baptize in the midst of the community this morning.  If the life of God is just under the surface of each of us, then it is just under the surface of all of life.  God will show up as a bit of wonder in the midst of things—in the grocery store, and at school, the office and at formation, at PT, and in the doctor's office—even the dentist's office, under the rug at home, and in the eyes of your puppy who just relieved himself on your rug—

Until we finally see that the one who sees not God everywhere sees God truly nowhere.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Such a Man

Epiphany 4, January 29, 2012, St. Christopher's Episcopal Church

 I'm really not this snooty, but the other day while I was working in the office I had Beethoven's 3rd Symphony in E Major playing on my iPhone.  I found it delightful background music for my work. It filled the place with peace, and, though I'm usually not one to have background music going, I found it enhanced my productivity.  Now, as I said, I'm not really that snooty.  In fact, if you were to ask me to identify the symphony from an unlabeled list of them by listening I would be at a total loss.  I just happen to have it on my phone, and I just decided to play it.  And I liked it.  I liked it not because my taste in music is so refined, but because it's just good music.  It carries a power in it that has made us continue to play it even though the composer himself died in 1827, more than 180 years ago.  There is an innate beauty about it which is compelling.  I know you know what I mean.

It's not unlike other experiences we have all had.  A sunset grabs us and sits us down almost forcefully on a log to watch as it blazes out the last moments of a day.  A bite of food suddenly makes all your taste buds burst into full sensory flower.  A fragrance wafts by and your heart is filled with the joy of a childhood memory.

Now imagine meeting someone who just commands your loyalty by his or her very presence.  It might be your grandmother or a favorite uncle, perhaps a boss at work whom you admire, or a sports hero.  It's not really that they have high position or command great companies of men, though they might, it's more than that, and less at the same time, something that calls you out of your small-self and into your big-self.  Being with that person somehow opens all your pores and makes you breathe easier, you know that what they say is true and right and good, and you are ready to depend on it with your life.  I have not met many people like that in my lifetime.  I have thought I found such people many times, only to be disappointed with their feet of clay.

 But in today's Gospel lesson such a person walks into church one day.  His goodness is so compelling and so present that any and all things evil just have to flee.  Even the evil spirit knows who he is, he rightly calls him, "The holy one of God."  Everyone is left with their mouths open in amazement.  Nobody they had ever known ever spoke with such inherent authority.

 This kind of authority is not achieved or earned, it is given.  It is given by God.  It is not a uniform that one puts on, like that of a policeman, that confers the power of another, but it comes by the vesting of the heart by a heavenly uniform, that makes one into a certain kind of person.  In Jesus' case, it made Him into exactly what He was anyway.

 Jesus is here this morning.  Some people can feel His presence, others cannot, but that is inconsequential, really.  We know He is here because He promised to be present among two or three who gather in His name.  We have gathered in His name, as we do every Sunday.

 Before this kind of authority there are only two possible responses.  Jesus got one in Jerusalem, and the other in Galilee.  One can resist it, fight it, try to gain power over it, and ultimately fail, or one can surrender to it, follow and it and finally, find in it the source of life and peace.

How could one resist such goodness, you ask?  Oh, but we do all the time.  We tend to lash out at things we cannot control.  My big one is people merging into 70-mile-an-hour traffic at 50 miles-an-hour--in front of me--makes me crazy!  But you've all heard these quips, too:
·         "I'm not going to vote because my one vote won't change anything anyway."
·         "You can't trust a 'raghead,' they're all radicals who will talk nice to your face and stab you in the back when you turn around."
·         "The problem with society today is that there are too many __________ (fill in the blank.)"

We tend to try to control things we think we can control.  We over-manage, we undermine, we strategize and scrutinize and double-guess.  We value shrewdness over genuineness.  We cause others all kinds of grief just so we will look good to someone else.  And when we fail--it is always someone else's fault!  Anything that has the power to pull our chains and punch our buttons has become an idol that wields an inordinate amount of control over us.  Idols will always ultimately crumble under their own weight, leaving us sitting in the ashes of our own castles.

Or we can surrender.  Surrendering is not the act of a spineless sap, that is abdication.  Surrender is the hardest, bravest thing a person can do.  It is a recognition that God is truly bigger than oneself, and at the same time incomprehensibly good, and therefore worthy to be trusted with life's quandaries and conundrums.

Surrender is what the prophets of old did when they faithfully proclaimed the Words of God.
·         Surrender is what St. Paul did when, though meat offered to idols was no issue with him, would rather not eat meat at all for the sake of a brother or sister.
·         Surrender is what happens when the Command Sergeant Major faithfully makes the General's wishes become a reality.
·         Surrender is what happens when a volunteer at the church shows up, works until the work is done, and then looks for more.
·         Surrender is what happens when you stop for the needy, extend the benefit of the doubt, and clean up after the party.
·         Surrender is when another's weakness is more compelling than our strength, another's need more than our resources.
·         Finally, surrender is not affected one way or the other by recognition.

Jesus is here this morning.  What will it be?  The sovereignty of the ego, or the surrender of the heart?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sweet Surrender

Epiphany 3, January 22, 2012, St. Christopher's Episcopal Church 

A month ago our little Jack Russell had a puppy.  I've noticed some amazing things that happen in the presence of a puppy.  First of all, our little dog had never been a mommy before, but her mothering instincts kicked in incredible ferocity.  With only one little one to care for that little thing was fat and content ALL of the time!  You couldn't get momma dog away for more than just a minute or so or she was whining to get back to her precious charge.  Overnight, this dog went from a care-free puppy herself to a dutiful mother.  Now, we have enough dogs as it is, so we were looking for a home for this little one.  The mommy and the daddy are really good hunters, so this last weekend when I gathered with my falconer friends in Abilene, I put the puppy in the raffle.  The winner is a 12-year-old boy in Austin who can't wait to have his own dog!  Here are best friends forever in the making—guaranteed!  He wants to know about shots, and pick-up dates.  He wants to know about feeding and care and exercise and housing...overnight this 12-year-old boy is going from a care-free boy to a responsible young man.  There is a magic about puppies that really does change the world.

It’s really not magic.  It’s the power of surrender.  It is an innate thing in the human psyche to seek some great calling to which to give ourselves.  There is part of us that would always like to do precisely what we want to do and nothing more, but a deeper, wiser part of us knows that such a life grows pointless very quickly.  That wiser part seeks after something larger, some great high calling to which to respond.  Surrendering to that high call is the greatest thing we can ever do.  The highest and noblest of those calls is the call to a great journey, a journey into the heart of God as we know Him in Jesus Christ.  All humanity is called to that great surrender.  But each of us also has our own particular call, one that is ours alone.  The greatest task a person can ever do is to discover that call and live into it.

Jonah had such a call.  We know the story well.  God says, "Go, preach to the great city of Nineveh, lest I destroy it for its wickedness."  But Nineveh was one of Israel's enemies, and Jonah did NOT want to help out the enemy, so he sails the other direction, gets into a big storm, gets thrown him overboard and he spends three days and nights thinking about his call in the belly of the great fish.  The story today picks up after all that.  He goes, obedient to the call, and preaches to Nineveh, and the whole city repents, and God turns away from the destruction God had in mind.

Paul writes to the Christians in Corinth about such a call.  It was believed that the return of the Lord would happen just any minute.  In view of that, human institutions like marriage and wealthy, and the earthly experiences of loss and joy are secondary to the call of the advent of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus lays such a call before four of the disciples.  Jesus walks up the shoreline and finds these men tending their nets, for they were fishermen.  He calls Peter and Andrew and promises to make them fish for people.  He calls James and John and they follow him.  They spend the next three years learning to surrender themselves to that call.  Of the original 12 only one refused.

Where did this surrender take these four men?  Peter was martyred by the Emperor Nero in Rome.  There’s a great legend about Peter fleeing the persecution.  On the way down the Appian Way he meets the Lord going to Rome.  “Where are you going?” he asks.  “To Rome to be crucified again,” he replies.  Peter immediately returns and is martyred, asking to be crucified upside down for he did not feel himself worthy of dying in the same manner as his Lord.

Andrew is reported to have gone to Scythia preaching the Gospel, and legend has it he died on an X-shaped cross at the hands of pagans.  James was the second Christian martyr recorded in the Bible, he was killed by Herod the King in the infancy of the church.  Early sources place John in Ephesus after the church was scattered from Jerusalem, where he alone of the 12 died of old age.  There he mentored another great father of the Church, Polycarp.

This morning five women will lovingly surrender to a higher calling.  They will be admitted to the Order of the Daughters of the King.  The Daughters of the King was founded in 1885 by Margaret Franklin of New York.  It is open to members of the Episcopal Church and churches in communion with it.  It is a religious order, not a club or association, members pledge to live under the order's Rule of Life, which includes the rules of prayer and service.  They pledge themselves to a lifelong work of prayer, service and evangelism, dedicated to the spread of Christ's kingdom and strengthening the spiritual life of the parish in which they worship.  When they pass on into the larger life they will be buried with their crosses.  Our own Chapter prays for the parish and for its priest, they perform work days, like they did yesterday and cleaned up the kitchen, they reach out to the needy in the community, and they run the Prayer Chain for the church.

These five women have studied, and they have prayed, and they are ready this morning to surrender themselves to the rule of the Order.  It is a moment of deep spiritual power and significance; they undertake a surrender so powerful that it really can change the world.

To what will you surrender?  There are false calls and there are true ones.  False calls will always stroke your ego instead of your calling.  There will be little sense of mystery, no calling beyond yourself, and no real long-term good.  The true ones, on the other hand, will always have these signposts along the way.  They will call you beyond yourself, turn you from fishing to being fishers of people.  Even if they demand great sacrifice, as in the case of these four disciples, they will bring great good into the world in Christ's name.  And finally, in surrendering to their call you will know the only true happiness and peace that you can know in this life.

To what does your heart hearken?  What great mystery calls to you?  To what will you surrender?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Sweet Surrender

Epiphany 1, Baptism of Our Lord, January 8, 2012, St. Christopher's Episcopal Church

Northern New Mexico is strewn with thousands of archeological sites, many very close to Los Alamos.  On a recent visit to our son and daughter-in-law Karisse and I had a chance to visit the Bandelier National Monument, and to see the adobe and cave dwellings of the ancient people of the Pajaritos plateau.  Another day we went to another site, not nearly as dramatic or developed.  The local Tewa tribe does not want the site excavated.  It is their ancestors who lived on that small mesa 1000 years ago.  It was their flesh and blood that lived and loved and finally died on that small mesa, and they regularly come back to pray.  I couldn't help putting my hand on one of the petro-glyphs, as if to try somehow to reach back through a millennium and touch a people distant, but clearly not gone.

This morning we do that for the Church.  Like those ruins for the Tewa, the events we read about in Holy Scripture are not just distant memories of bygone events, they lay the foundation for today.  Just as the Tewa go back to pray on that mesa, we go back and touch once again the mystery of those moments.  It is vital that we do so, for that is the only way we can come to know who we are, and where we are supposed to go.

The moment we touch this morning is Jesus' baptism.  John the Baptist has the lion's share of the story, but he is not the central figure.  More significant is what the voice of God says, "You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased."

I you are like me when I read this passage I think, "Well, of course God the Father is well pleased with Jesus, He never committed any sins.  There's nothing for the Father to be upset about.  I, on the other hand..." and a great rift arises between our understanding of Jesus' baptism and our understanding of our own.  Such could not be farther from the truth.  Let's look at just what the Father said.  Jesus is beloved because He is the Son of the Father.  It has nothing to do with Jesus' worthiness, though he certainly has it.  It has everything to do with who he is, not what he does.  We are beloved of God because He is our Father, too.  It has nothing to do with our sins, or our worthiness, it has everything to do with who we are—creations of God.

God is well pleased with Jesus not because he has not committed any sins, but because He surrenders to the Father's will.  He goes from here to fulfill the mission given by the Father.  Baptism leads to mission.  God is pleased with us, not because we have not committed any sins (because we have), but because, following Christ's example, we surrender to the will of the Father.  We go from baptism into the mission and ministry given us by the Father.  Baptism leads to mission.

Baptism is the foundation, the ancient story behind our mission and ministry.  Like with Jesus, baptism leads to mission.

What does this mean for us this morning?  We know that the life of this parish has suffered this past year.  We have lost members and revenue.  If God the Father were a business mogul who had St. Christopher's as a local corporate store His words would not be, "You are my beloved, with you I am well pleased."  We would be answering some hard questions and working overtime to fix the problems lest we get sold to the competition!

But God the Father is not a business mogul for whom the bottom line is everything.  God is the God who created us, and for that we are His beloved.  The first feeling that comes into God’s heart when God thinks of us is love.  It’s like having a baby.  One always loves the baby born in the household (unless one is the older sibling…)  Now a baby is nothing but noise at one end and no responsibility at the other, but we love the baby for who it is, not what it does.  In the same way God loves us because God made us.  Just relax into that wonderful news!  There's not a thing we can do to earn or erode God's love for us.  It is a constant we can depend on, the first truth of who we are.  In and with Jesus (hear me now!) WE ARE THE BELOVED!

His pleasure in us is a function of our surrender to His will.  We would like to imagine that we bring to God a bunch of capacities, and gifts and abilities that He really can't live without.  These are the necessary ingredients to success in the church, and if we will just get people to engage these gifts then the church will be fine and we will feel good and all will be hunky-dory.  If something is going wrong in the church it is because someone is not following the rules or engaging their gifts as they should, and if only those who cannot express these essential gifts would just get out of the way we can make this thing work!  If we don't we're being lazy and God has no reason to love us.

But that is to miss the point.  It's like joining the army.  You don't join the army in order to do a certain job (unless you're a warrant officer.)  You join the army in order to serve your country, and then the Army tells you where you will serve and what you will do.  We surrender to the will of God in principle and then find out what it means.  Of course, at its best the Army will also recognize what your capacities and abilities are and  capitalize on those things.  God, who knows you more intimately than you know yourself, will do the same.  But that is not why we surrender.  We surrender because it is the one thing we can do.

It is the one thing we must do.  Then, and only then, do we begin to build the Kingdom.  Then and only then will the peace of God that passes all understanding overflow our hearts and fill us with joy.  What will galvanize our hearts is hearing the Father's words to us, “You are my beloved, with you I am well pleased.”

We are about to reaffirm our baptismal vows.  Some of us remember our baptisms, others of us do not.  Nonetheless, the commitment is the same.  As we go through this listen carefully for the words of God to you.  Commit yourselves once more to this great call, and let yourself be swept up in the great mystery we call The Church of Jesus Christ.

To Bear the Name

 Feast of the Holy Name, January 1, 2012, St. Christopher's Episcopal Church

In 1881 the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railroad punched through railroads in this area of Texas.  They bought 350 acres of land and laid out a 70-plot town.  They named it after Frank P. Killeen, the assistant general manager.  That's how this town got its name.

But, what's in a name?  The name "Killeen" is Irish.  It is said to derive from one of three sources.  O'Cillin, which is a surname, and comes from the diminutive of "Cill" or cell, church, grave, nest-egg or treasure box.  The other is “ceall," variously translated as "given to disputes," or "bright-headed.  (Perhaps those concepts are related!)  The final one is "Colin," which means "hound," though this seems the furthest reach.  St. Killian was an Irish evangelist who traveled through central Europe (Bavaria) preaching the Gospel at the end of the 7th century.

Interesting thing it is, that an Irishman would have such a post in such a big and wealthy company.  Throughout the eastern US at that time signs were common that read, "Help Wanted, Irish Need Not Apply."  I would imagine that those who knew him did not hold his Irish descent against him.  I could hear them saying, "Oh, he's different, he's not like the others."  Is it not amazing the importance we put on a name?  It goes without saying that a name is more than just a verbal handle for proper nouns.  Our daughter-in-law will not divulge the moniker to be applied to our future grandson, so his paternal grandmother has gone to calling him "Bubba."  A name is not a name is not a name.

And so, when we look at the name of Jesus we have to assume that God had something special in mind.  The variations are incredible:  The name is a 1st century version of Joshua of the 10th century BC.  Jesus' contemporaries would have pronounced it, "Yahoshua."  We, taking the name as we do through the filter of low German, convert it to "Jesus."  To the Arab we are "Isawim,"  to the Spanish-speaker he is "Jesús," to the Tsachi of western Ecuador, "Jeshú."  In whatever language you speak it, the meaning of the name is the same.  You can see the similarity between "Yahoshua" and Jehovah."  Joshua/Yahoshua/Isa/Jeshu all mean "savior."  The name of Jesus, the Son of God, depicts His function and identity.

In that light Aaron of old (in the Old Testament lesson) was told to bless the people:

“The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you, the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”  And then, at the end of the passage for today Moses is to tell Aaron, "So shall they put my name on the Israelites and I will bless them."

This is an interesting statement.  The blessing of God has something to do with bearing His name.  The feast of the Holy Name, then, is a feast of blessing.  God not only names His Son, Jesus, but God gives us His name as a blessing.  On this day not just the son of Mary is named, but we are as well.

What does it mean to bear the name of God?  First, it tells us who we are.  We are those who are called by God's name.  And this is not just a handle by which we distinguish one person from another.  If God is the God of the universe, the ultimate creator of all things and the ground of being itself, then being called by God’s name is to be named in our own truest and deepest selves.  It is an invitation to discover just what that is and what it means.

Sounds like a New Year’s resolution to me:  Discover how to live from that innermost self, that place within you where you know yourself to be seen, loved and named by God.  This is the place that is not afraid because it knows itself to be radically loved.  The key to hearing the truth is silence.  Deep, inner silence found only through time spent in silence.  Resolve to spend time in silence every day.

Second, it tells us how to live.  If we are the beloved of God, then we are here to share that love with the world.  But we need help getting past all the voices that shout other things in our ears and in our hearts.  These things are the voice of fear:
·         Careful, love too much and you will get hurt.
·         Careful, this one will stab you in the back.
·         Careful, misplaced trust can be very painful.
·         Now you’ve been attacked, how will you defend yourself?
·         So-and-so doesn’t like you anyway, best just steer clear of her.

The one who knows in his or her innermost being that they are loved hears other things:
·         Look, here is a need, what can be done to meet it?
·         Look, someone wants our attention, of course I will give it.
·         Look, here is truth, beauty or goodness.  Shall we not be incredibly grateful?
·         So-and-so is being ugly, I wonder how and why they are hurting so?

Sounds like another New Year’s Resolution:  Learn to hear the truth of being loved.  The key to this is compassion, not schmaltzy warm fuzzy feelings about someone beautiful or nice, but that inner commitment to the good of another, that sees them clearly for who they are, and then be there for them in a radical, personal way, for good or ill.

Now, then, at the beginning of this year, 2012, God blessed His Son by naming Him Jesus, the Savior, God blesses you by including you in the family and putting His name on you, and God sends you out into the world to share the same sort of love that we have come to know.