I am looking forward to this evening where I will lend my voice in celebration and prayerful reflection of Father Andy Kruger transitioning from Priest in Charge to Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, Cranford. Gathered together we will chant Taize. It brings gladness to my heart. I am looking forward to tomorrow, where I will humbly present Tammy Young for ordination to the Priesthood at St. Mark’s in Basking Ridge. We’ve journeyed long together and I am overwhelmed by how far we have come. I am looking forward to Sunday, where I will celebrate the Eucharist and witness the hope, love and joy of Christ’s peaceble Kingdom at St. Barnabas in Monmouth Junction. These are some of the candles burning brightly in the midst of the Dark winter days of December. It brings a welcome break to the constant news cycle and the chaos of the week which brought gunfire and hate to my friends and loved ones at home in Jersey City, New Jersey.
This week’s reading from Isaiah 35:1-10 wraps me like a needed warm blanket on a cold day, given a cup of cocoa and kissed on the forehead by God, “It’s going to be ok my child.”
The Return of the Redeemed to Zion
35 The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus 2 it shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
the majesty of our God.
3 Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
4 Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
“Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
He will come with vengeance,
with terrible recompense.
He will come and save you.”
5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
6 then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
7 the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,[a]
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
8 A highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Holy Way;
the unclean shall not travel on it,[b]
but it shall be for God’s people;[c]
no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.
9 No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.
10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
“The desert shall rejoice and blossom”
I’ve never been a good Gradner. I’ve attempted some potted herbs from time to time only to have weeping basil on my kitchen sil. I am in awe of those who can grow things. Take a little seedling, plant it in soil, nurture it with water and love and allow God’s magic to take place in the time in between, lifting and sprouting that seedling into a flourishing blossom. The congregation at St. Peter’s in Spotswood, New Jersey does an amazing job of cultivating food from the earth and spreading God’s abundance in community. I watched and learned over the growing season as they prepped the beds, planted, and tended to its growth with love, hardwork and prayer. I’ve learned alot about actively being patient, and I’ve learned just as they have tended to the seeds, so have they tended to me with patience and love.
There are often no words for those who grieve that ease the pain of loss especially this time of year when all the world seems aglow with holiday preparation. There are no words for a community terrorized by hatred and violence that ease the pain of being victimized and targeted. There are no words for a mother who loses a child or a child who loses a parent. No heady, rational verbal expression can explain away the depth of sorrow or create a sympathetic understanding, but it does not mean that we sit in the stillness of dark days without action, void of love’s expression. No, we have a duty to God and to one another to stand up and tend to each other with love, patiently awaiting the coming of Christ who loves us.
“Strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees.”
Tending to a garden is not comfortable work, especially as we get older. I find my joints are stiffer, the arthritis is creeping further and the knees aren’t as reliable as they once were. I don’t kneel in worship at times where I once did, instead I gently bow giving rest to my aching knees. The brokeness of the world is as taxing on the body as it is our spirit. Loving earnestly with an open heart as we battle the evil among us is often not easy. It can be rather uncomfortable. After the Tree of Life shooting that took the lives of eleven of God’s faithful people, an older woman approached me at the end of service and asked, ” How am I supposed to love a person who has done such harm?” My heart melted as I listened and understood deeply her anguish.
Pray for strong hands and firm knees as we battle the acts of evil in our earthly world. God’s is with us, Emmanuel even as we await the birth of our incarnate Christ.
Many of my friends and colleagues are exhausted by the the Trauma and relentless attacks on our communities, on communities of color, on our religious communities especially our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters, on communities of refugees, on our border communities, on our poor communities and communities who are food insecure, on our LGBTQI communities and on our hispanic communities. We, as many of you, are exhausted and sometimes overwhelmed by the evil acts often committed under the cover of Jesus’s name. It’s tiring, often down right infuriating. We ask for God’s strength and light in the darkness and look to the one that is to come.
I can imagine that as John wrote from prison (Matt. 11:2-11), he may have been tired too, “Are you the one that is to come?” I can also imagine that like the Isaiah passage above is to me, the apostles’ words and witness was to John, a warm blanket, some cocoa and a kiss on the forehead. ” You my child, will be ok.”
As we await for the birth of our incarnate Lord may we live like the apostles, bringing good news and witness to those who sit in the darkness of injustice, pain or grief. May we cultivate the seed of hope, love and joyful expectation to the one that is to come. “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.”
May we be living witnesses, loving radically, abundantly, becoming the warm blanket, cup of cocoa and kiss from God for all. O’ come, O’ come Emmanuel!