Faith

Zechariah’s Refinement: An Old Man Learns Something New

Zechariah’s Refinement: An Old Man Learns Something New

Zechariah, the husband of Elizabeth and the father of John the Baptist, was a priest. He was kind of a big deal, really. Only descendants of Levi could be priests and he was one of them.

We do not know very much about his economic status or learning, but we do know that he had responsibilities in the Temple—a turn to touch the holy.

That is always a big deal.

The lectionary tells the story this week of John the Baptist. Starting with Malachi we learn that God is sending a messenger to prepare the way; “The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight--indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 3:1b). But this will not necessarily be an easy coming. It will be something to be endured like a “refiner’s fire” and “fullers’ soap” (Malachi 3:2). The messenger’s coming will require transformation of us all, but especially, Malachi says, of the descendants of Levi.

How interesting that John the Baptist’s own father was one such person.

Malachi believed that the all-male religious leadership he knew would especially feel the effects of the messenger’s coming—and that the well-being of the entire people would depend upon their heeding that transformation.

Fast forward a few hundred years and we see Zechariah tending his duties in the Temple. Along comes the angel Gabriel with good, good news. The messenger is coming, he says, and through your partnership with your wife!

Zechariah’s response, Say what? How will I know that this is so?

And the angel promptly strikes him mute.

St. Nicholas, Our Brother

St. Nicholas, Our Brother

The feast of St. Nicholas is upon us. Tonight lots of little shoes will be set out in hopes that he will stop by in the night. Our stockings are certainly hung with care.

I so enjoy the fun of this feast day because I enjoy our brother.

Though not much can be said for the St. Nicholas from our 21st century historicity standards, thousands upon thousands of faithful folks have carried stories about him through the centuries. These widely-held legends all have common threads running throughout as well, themes of generosity, liberation, compassion, and faith.

How We'll Advent this Year

How We'll Advent this Year

Advent began yesterday in a soft and glorious manner. The children called us to worship with their song and the family of faith looked on as Hope lit up the sanctuary. It is here. The season of watching and waiting is finally here.

Advent pasts have looked quite different than this one in the Coyle-Carr house. Until now, at least one of us has faced down finals and term papers ‘til Gaudete Sunday three weeks in. This time around, though, graduate days are behind us and a bump swells before us day by day.

Our family is changing and growing, as is its expression of vocation and faithful living. We are seeing things in new lights and from new angles. There is a stirring in our bones even as we feel the most at home yet.

I do feel rooted. My feet can almost find their way around here. I technically became a Texan last Friday.

And here comes Advent.

See the Signs: An Invitation to Anticipation

See the Signs: An Invitation to Anticipation

Advent begins today with what could be a rather ominous gospel reading.

We hear Jesus talking about the apocalyptic coming of the Son of Humanity—his own glorified return at the end of this age. The End is always tinged in mysterious light; it has been a source of anxiety for Christians since the beginning. “When will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” (Luke 21:7). We worry about burning skies and brimstone, persecutions and purgatory—pretty much everything that is not found in this text.

In fact, the Teacher answers the anxiety of his disciples not with a series of warning signals, but a serious invitation to anticipation. To be clear, Jesus does not trivialize the disciples’ fears. He does not shame them for being confused or afraid. Indeed, the End could be scary for those not expecting it to come. But that is just it: Jesus gives us a heads up and a hand up—an invitation to anticipation.

Ascended, But Not Far Away

Ascended, But Not Far Away

Well, the Feast of the Ascension of Jesus is coming up, folks. Observance start tomorrow and in some places happens all day on Sunday.

It’s got me thinking.

To be completely honest, Jesus’ Ascension has always stirred up feelings of abandonment in me. Why did he have to go? What did it feel like to stand there on that mountain and watch your friend and savior disappear before your eyes, especially after the ultimate miracle of his resurrection? And why did he have to go so far away, all the way up to the “the right hand of God?”

The whole thing reminds me of that moment right after the goodbye while your love’s car rounds the corner out of sight.

And it doesn’t feel good. There’s an ache to it. It’s fine in the long run, really. Life goes on and there is work to be done. But, still. It hurts me to think of it--maybe especially because the separation my spouse and I had to endure so that I could finish seminary is still very fresh in my body.

I am bringing this to Christ’s Ascension; it’s all tied up.

The scripture today (find the whole list of daily lectionary readings here), however, upsets my despair. It disturbs this notion of an abandoning, far-away Jesus.