Saturday, December 24, 2016

"God can be born anywhere" -- A Christmas Greeting from Fooling with Scripture

Every year, at Christmas, I post the same thing.

Not because it's the most profound thing ever, but because it's the truest thing I've figured out to say about Christmas.

This year I thought I'd present it in brief "Fooling with Scripture" podcast form.

Check out the mini-podcast here:

The first time I really understood the Nativity was in Yanoun, in the northern West Bank. The shepherds we were with showed us where they keep their sheep. It was a low, dark, cave.  Noisy, crowded with animals, and smelling like–well–sheep shit. The mangers were rusty, with sheep pushing at each other to find space to eat. Not the sort of place you’d want to have a kid. I remember thinking: “If God can be born here, I guess God can be born anywhere.”

Here's a song about Yanoun:

You can find out more about Sabeel, and about Friends of Sabeel - North America, and about the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program. If you're feeling generous this Christmas, I encourage you to make a gift to any and all three.

 Of course, if you're feeling particularly generous, and you like the stuff I post on here, you can become a Patron!

Merry Christmas, everyone. Wherever you are -- God can be born there. With you.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Fooling with Scripture (Bonus Episode) -- The Longest Night

This time of year, around the winter solstice, we are faced with the longest, darkest nights of the year, and the shortest days. It can be hard for some people to feel joyful or celebratory at this time of year -- which can make the holidays jarring for some. In this short, bonus episode of "Fooling with Scripture," I talk a bit about that, with reference to Isaiah 45 and Luke 1. Check it out:

If you want to hear the full version of Pat's song -- which you should -- you can listen to it on SoundCloud:

As I mentioned, Pat has very generously offered this song as a free download, but writes that "if you want to support people who are working to realize Mary's vision, consider giving to the Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State.

I also mentioned my work with Georgetown Ministry Center. From now until the end of the year, first time donations of $30 are being matched, dollar for dollar -- click here to donate.

And I'd be remiss to mention "the treasures of darkness" without mentioning Barbara Brown Taylor's fantastic book Learning to Walk in the Dark -- you can read more about her book and the treasures of darkness here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Fooling with Scripture, Ep 16 -- Fooling with Waiting

In this week's Advent episode of the Fooling with Scripture podcast, we're talking about waiting and not waiting. In urgent times, can we afford to "wait for it"? And if not, what are we to make of biblical passages about waiting, and the emphasis on waiting during this time of the Church year? There is a big difference, I'll argue, between the concept of "waiting on God" cited in the scriptures and the idea of having a "wait and see" attitude. We'll be looking at several passages, but in particular at the prophet Habakkuk. Check it out:

If you're thinking this week's podcast sounds a bit familiar...well, you caught me. I've used this text, and this tension between waiting and not-waiting, before, in a sermon I gave back in seminary. You can read it here.

The best commentary I've ever read on Habakkuk is still the one written by Howard Thurman in the old Interpreter's Bible commentary. It's tough to find, but if you can, it's really an incredible gem.

The quote from Thurman that I read in the podcast is from Deep is the Hunger. In the 2000 edition from Friends United Press, it can be found on page 53-54, and includes a story about driving in the snow that is perfect for this time of year:
"Paradoxical as it seems, patience is an important technique for accomplishing difficult tasks, even in matters having to do with social change….Some things cannot be forced but they must unfold, sending their tendrils deep into the heart of life, gathering strength and power with the unfolding days....Patience…is only partially concerned with time, with waiting; it includes also the quality of relentlessness, ceaselessness and constancy. It is a mood of deliberate calm that is the distilled result of confidence. One works at the task intensely even as one realizes that to become impatient is to yield the decision to the adversary."
You can read the full text of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 'Letter from a Birmingham Jail' here;  and you should. You should read it, over and over again, particularly if you are about to comment on any group's choice of timing or protest tactics.