Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Holy Innocents

The three days following Christmas Day are Saints Days: St. Stephen, St. John the Evangelist and the Holy Innocents. Although all three of these call for serious reflection, I have found myself reflecting a bit more on the Holy Innocents during the past few days and I have found myself drawn to three things about the story in Matthew 2:13-16:

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, "Out of Egypt I have called my son."

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

"A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because
they are no more."

  1. The story is a true story. By that I don't mean that it actually happened, although it may have, but that it is a story that reveals to us something that is true. In this case, what we see is that tyrants will stop at nothing to hold on to power.

  2. Power is seductive. While we may set out to use the legitimate power that we have for good, we can be tempted to use it to impose our notion of what is good on everyone else.

  3. People in power - and that may mean all of us to some extent - don't have to commit murder in order to cause suffering and death for others. We can do that by simple neglect. It is no wonder that the title of Jonathan Kozol's book about homeless families in America is Rachel and Her Children.
The placing of this Saints Day so close to Christmas is no accident. Not only is this story part of Matthew's Nativity narrative, the story is a stark reminder of what Christmas - the Incarnation - is all about: God's acting to share human life at its deepest level and to redeem it from darkness. The words of the 20th century theologian and civil rights leader Howard Thurman remind me of the Christmas work that we are called to do:

When the song of the angels is silent

When the star in the sky is gone

When the kings and princes are home

When the shepherds are again tending their sheep

When the manger is darkened and still

The work of Christmas begins --

To find the lost

To heal the broken

To feed the hungry

To rebuild the nations

To bring peace among people

To befriend the lonely

To release the prisoner

To make music in the heart.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Anglican Covenant

Having been released a week before Christmas, it is hardly surprising that many of us haven't even bothered to read the final (?) version of The Anglican Covenant. What may be surprising is that some people have had the time to read and comment on the document. I have avoided paying much attention to comments about the specific provisions of the final section - that would require that I go beyond the quick read that I have given it. I am, however, paying attention to more general comments and found two of them worth reading and re-reading. Fr. Tobias Haller has a well thought out post Incarnation (?) at his blog In a Godward Direction. Fr. Mark Harris has a somewhat less irenic post, Coal in your Christmas Socking? One lump, or two?, at his blog Preludium. The adoption or rejection of the Covenant by the Churches of the Anglican Communion will take time - not months, but years - and discovering whether the Covenant will strengthen the Communion will take even longer, maybe decades. The Anglican Communion is, I think, slowly coming to terms with it's British colonial past. My hope and prayer for the Communion is that Anglican will embrace the difficult work of maintaining relationships in spite of our diffences and not yield to the temptation to sameness. As a Provost of Coventry Cathedral once asked, "What kind of a Church would it be, if everyone in it were just like me?" Boring, to be sure, but more than boring - not the Body of Christ.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

All Peoples

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation. (Isaiah 25:6-9)

This was the first reading at yesterday's celebration of the Eucharist. In a time when we are sorely tempted to circle the wagons and think that the promise of the Incarnation is only for those within the circle, Isaiah pushes us to see that God's gift is for all peoples, and not just those who look or think or act like us. The disturbing message of Isaiah - and of Jesus - is that we don't get to say who is worthy of God's love, God's grace. We aren't worthy - no one is - and yet the indiscriminate love of God is for all peoples.