Weekly Grace General Blog
This blog contains lead articles in the Weekly Grace columns.

An Epiphany

The word “epiphany” literally means the “out shining” of light. In English, it has come to mean an experience of God which is often mystical and powerful. It can also mean a sudden perception of the meaning of something or an intuitive grasp, an insight.  In church usage, the celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany today (January 6) commemorates the visit of the three kings or magi to present their gifts to the Christ child. It marks the first appearance of Jesus to the Gentile world. It is the manifestation (out shining) of God to the world.


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The Christmas Funk

First responders, soldiers, and ER docs train for this. In high-stress, emergency, life threatening situations (it doesn’t matter whose life is threatened), they shut down their emotional response to the situation at hand and become coldly analytical. This is a learned skill although some people are unable to do it. You want the ER doctor to get that way when your blood pressure is crashing, and your eyes start to roll up like a slot machine. Soldiers must do this on the battlefield to stay alive. Emotional detachment can be a good thing in some situations.


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Two Kinds of Callings

I grew up in that “Leave it to Beaver” era of the late 1950s. It seems so long ago now, but kids are kids, and they will do things in the summer to have fun, beat the heat and expand their resourcefulness. Since we lived on a corner, one thing I tried for a few summers was the corner lemonade stand. My friends a few blocks away tried to convince me of making lemonade from this powdery stuff. If you added it to cold water, not everything would dissolve, and you would end up with this cool, weak, gritty concoction that tasted like you opened your mouth in a sandstorm. I ended up using frozen concentrate in a blender.


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Seasonal Spirituality and Roman Speculations

I love fall and spring. Winter and summer, I can do without, especially summer. I look out my window at a slate-grey, drizzly sky. Here we are on the cusp of winter, a time when for almost a thousand years, the Romans celebrated their festival of Saturnalia from 17-23 December. In a kind of Roman mythological-cultural memory, Saturn ruled during a time of bounty when everyone could eat from the land and no one had to work. I wonder if this golden age idea might be related to earlier, Jewish, Garden of Eden accounts.


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Harmony

Following our recent, raucous national election and similar developments worldwide, I decided to look at the issue of harmony and how it is handled under Confucian, Asian cultures versus mostly Christian, western cultures. As a caveat here, this is a Cliff-notes kind of gloss and generalization of two very complex and distinct cultures. With that in mind, we may learn something in comparing the two.


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I am Thankful for…

  • Life, in all its varied mysteries and forms. That each of us has a time to live.
  • Beauty, in the natural world that touches all our senses. In human relationships. In art and music. And in mathematics.
  • Reconciliation, because it enables new lives to go forward.

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A Timeless Question

I started writing this morning about 5:30 with a tribute to sixteenth century English theologian, Richard Hooker. As I studied the puritans and the treatment of them by succeeding generations of American historians, I came upon an observation by John Winthrop after sailing on the Arabella to the New World. This was the voyage where he is said to have written his now-famous “City on a Hill” sermon (although he was not an ordained minister, it was a “lay sermon”).


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Hopes and Dreams

I have friends on both sides of the political divide who are scared. Tough, Army veterans who were shot down behind Vietnamese enemy lines who are scared. Seniors, healthcare workers, business owners, and venture capitalists who are realistically concerned about the potential for violence. American Jews fear a repeat of Kristallnacht (the night of broken glass) when, in 1938, the Nazis began the systematic destruction of the German Jewish people.[1] In the original Nazi violence, Protestants and Roman Catholics stood by, watching passively, while their Jewish neighbors and friends were rounded up and their businesses and synagogues destroyed.


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A Chicken Parable

Farmer Brown had a nice flock of chickens she kept in a coop and their enclosed yard.  Being mindful of the wily coyote, Farmer Brown never let her flock roam freely on the beautiful grass around the barn. You might say they were always “cooped up.” The Leghorns were a fairly plain breed, mostly tan in color with little to distinguish them. The flock produced reliable eggs and that is what Farmer Brown treasured every morning.


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Exegetical Underwear

I had a seminary professor who encouraged his homiletical students never “to show too much of your exegetical[1] underwear” meaning that you never want to turn your sermon into a college or graduate class on the topic of the day. I have also learned in 21 years of preaching that when a complicated idea arises, the best strategy is not to take it head on or avoid it (as many do), but to get playful and have fun with it. This Sunday’s sermon focuses on the poorly understood and under-appreciated idea of grace (I refuse to call it a “doctrine”).


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