A time such as this…

“A time such as this…”
10/7/18
Esther 7:1-7

We spent Friday morning at Sen. Susan Collins Augusta office,
asking her (via her aides),
to vote no on the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
I tell you this not because I expect you to agree with me, necessarily
but because we’re going to think about failure and difficulty today.
And I can’t help but feel that, right now.

within hours,
she had said yes to the nomination.
We lost.
And it’s a loss the matters, I think.
And we wake up this morning,
with many, angry. Sad.
And perhaps wondering if any of it makes a difference.
Whether or not we agree,
I suspect we’ve had such a moment. Or we will.

Esther is the reluctant heroine,
of our tale this evening.
This is not, perhaps, our most familiar biblical story,
but it is among the more epic and entertaining,
and relevant.

the complicated tale,
of Queen Esther –
a Jew,
in a strange land,
married to the powerful and hot-tempered King of the Persian empire – Ahasuerus.

Esther is the model of obedience –
quiet and beautiful and submissive.
And chosen for these things.
She is a passive figure,
with no distinctive marks of her people.
She is not pious.
She’s not justice-minded.
She is not a troublemaker.
She does not believe she has power.

Throughout the story,
she is acted on.
Not an actor.
Even as a plot unfolds to kills all the Jews in Persia

And then something clicks.
Not right away, mind you.
It takes some cajoling,
some reminding.

Her adoptive father Mordecai reveals to her the plot to kill her people,
and even then she says,
“No, I can’t do anything.
Everyone who goes before the king without an invite,
is killed.”

To which he replies:
“Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.”
A time such as this.
Something awakens within her.
She wakes up.

And she risks her life,
she uses her privilege and status,
to save her people.
She is clever and tricky,
and she wins.
And we all cheer.

But before the story was Esther’s,
It was Vasthi’s. (more…)

Published in: on October 14, 2018 at 3:55 pm Comments (0)
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Seen.

Seen.  Colby College Chapel, 9/30/18
John 8:2-10

If we were to go out on the sidewalk,
and ask passers-by,
what quotes they know from Jesus,
it’s fair to think today’s would register.
“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”
Or something like that.

If we were on family feud:
“One hundred people surveyed,
“Things Jesus said.”
We might not hit the buzzer and say it first,
it would be on the board, don’t you think?
I am the way the truth the light
Love one another as I have loved you.
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Let anyone among you.
A reasonable guess, at least.

This is one of the stories we know, I think,
about Jesus.
One of the stories we love, perhaps.
And rightly so.
It’s great.
Jesus is subversive,
disruptive,
and, I think, lovable.
I imagine him standing in the middle,
of this whirlwind,
of anger and violence,
this plot and ploy to undermine his credibility
This mingling mob of power and gender and judgment and law.
And he says,
look at this woman,
and look at yourselves,
see her as a flawed, beloved human
just like you.
and choose another path.
And they did.
This is the Jesus we know and love.

And I couldn’t help but think of him,
and of her.
especially this week.
As our body politic is being pushed to wonder:
how do we listen
how do we respond
how do we believe
how do we treat survivors of violence.
when and how do we forgive? (more…)

Published in: on October 7, 2018 at 3:19 pm Comments Off on Seen.
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Can Jesus Learn?

Mark 7:24-30
Can Jesus Learn?

Our scripture is full of complicated stories,
and challenging texts.
Some of which have been used,
to marginalize and subjugate,
and demean.
But, I don’t know if there’s a biblical story,
that shakes me up as much as this one.

I’ve wrestled in my life with many interpretive frameworks
I’ve considered countless radical revisions,
of Jesus’ personhood and work.

I’d read more academic theology than is healthy for a normal human,
by the time I was 23.

I’m all for provocative,
fresh understandings of Jesus,
through deconstructionist,
feminist and womanist and queer theory lenses,
liberation theologies of manifold sorts.
I tend to think more pictures,
more angles,
more understandings from more places,
strengthens, as it complicates our faith. (more…)

Published in: on September 30, 2018 at 1:01 pm Comments Off on Can Jesus Learn?
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Whose Conversion?

Acts 8:26-40
9/16/18, Colby College Chapel

If you have a certain kind of bible,
you’ve probably noticed that there are headings,
in front of certain stories.
Those headings – indeed chapter and verse numbers themselves,
it’s worth noting,
aren’t a part of the text.
They’re commentary added much later.

Some of those headings are quite influential,
If you read the text of Matthew 28 for instance,
you’ll notice that the phrase “The Great Commission”
isn’t actually there.
“Go a make disciples of all nations” is indeed a great commission,
but so too is ‘Love others as I have loved you,’
which Jesus actually calls the greatest commandment.
Commentary can shape how we read texts,
in profound ways.

It’s possible you have a bible,
that calls today’s story,
“Philip converts the Ethiopian Eunuch.”
This is perhaps the normal read of today’s story,
but I’m not sure it’s right. (more…)

Published in: on September 18, 2018 at 10:45 am Comments Off on Whose Conversion?
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Shiphrah and Puah

Colby College Chapel, 9/7/18
Exodus 1:8 – 2:5
(I’m indebted to Joshua Young for sending me a sermon from Allin Congregational Church by Lindsay Popper, that inspired both this reflection and our semester series.)

I’ve never met anyone named Shiphrah or Puah,
have you?
For all the strange biblical names that have survived into the 21st century.
It seems a shame,
because these women are heroes.
Humble midwives,
who stood up to Pharaoh,
in the face of violence and injustice.

Shiphrah and Puah have become, it would seem,
a brief footnote,
in the biblical narrative.
Joseph – you might remember him.
of the Amazing Technicolor dreamcoat.
Favored son of Jacob,
sold into slavery by his jealous brothers.
Great interpreter of dreams.
Saves Egypt from famine,
and makes space there for his mean brothers to settle,
thus ensuring their survival.
Joseph gets 15 chapters of the Genesis narrative,
and a mention in Exodus.

Shiphrah and Puah,
get 8 lines. And that’s it.
Even though they save the day,
literally.
For one of the children born
in the midst of their disobedience,
was Moses,
(It was Moses in the basket, in case you didn’t know.
If this is your first time through,
Moses is a pretty big deal.) (more…)

Published in: on September 16, 2018 at 1:10 pm Comments Off on Shiphrah and Puah
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Martha, Martha, Martha

Martha Martha Martha – Luke 10:28-32
Colby College Chapel, 9/2/18

Novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie warns us,
in one the of great all-time Ted Talks,
about the danger of a single story.

She highlights her experience beginning at an American University,
the daughter of a teacher and a professor from Nigeria.
her roommate wondered aloud how had Adichie learned to speak English so well,
and was excited to learn about her tribal music.
Adichie responded that English is one of Nigeria’s official languages,
and her favorite ‘tribal’ music was Mariah Carey.
We tell, so often,
only one story about places and people we don’t know.
A story – in this case –
of villages and huts and lions and giraffes and poverty .
Rather than many stories about cities and savannahs and colonialism and hope and real people.
and and and.
Adichie contrasts that with her recent experience reading American Psycho,
and not wondering for a moment if every American male is a serial killer.
Because we tend to read Steinbeck and Hemmingway and Fitzgerald and Salinger
and and and.
We know a million stories about high school and prep school,
and the complications of growing up, and vampires

Why do we know only one about Africa, with its 1.2 billion people.
Or Chicago.
Or Mexico?
or lacrosse players?
we all have them, I think.
And many are reinforced by racist or sexist structures and systems.
And it’s our job,
especially at a place like this,
to nuance and complicate and rethink,
those singular stories, regularly.

thank God,
that our scripture this (bible)
is not a single story. (more…)

Published in: on September 9, 2018 at 12:05 pm Comments Off on Martha, Martha, Martha
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Simplicity

My closing reflection on our semester spent on the “Fruits of the Spirit.”  Please see the rest of our terrific reflections from our seniors here.
Galatians 5: For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. 

John 15: 1-12

There’s a quote attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes,
the great jurist and justice,
“For the simplicity that lies this side of complexity, I would not give a fig, but for the simplicity that lies on the other side of complexity, I would give my life.”

Simplicity is not one of Paul’s fruits.
Nor is it especially something we seek after.

But we do tend to teach people – especially children –
simple versions of our faith.
One goes – you are loved, no matter what. So be kind.
The other,
“Do you want to burn in hell? No? Then say you love Jesus.”

“Be Nice.”
and “Be afraid.”
Are simple ideas.
One of them is much better than the other.
But both – I think – start to come undone,
as the complexity of life starts to weigh in. (more…)

Published in: on May 14, 2018 at 10:55 am Comments Off on Simplicity
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Joy and Gentleness – Joshua Young ’18

Our final senior reflection on Fruits of the Spirit from the class of 2018.

Hymn: “The Hymn of Joy” aka “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee.”

Scripture: Proverbs 15 – a selection of verses:

  • A gentle answer turns away wrath,
    but a harsh word stirs up anger. (1)
  • The soothing tongue is a tree of life,
    but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit. (4)
  • A happy heart makes the face cheerful,
    but heartache crushes the spirit. (13)
  • Folly brings joy to one who has no sense,
    but whoever has understanding keeps a straight course. (21)
  • Plans fail for lack of counsel,
    but with many advisers they succeed. (22)
  • A person finds joy in giving an apt reply—
    and how good is a timely word! (23)
  • Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart,
    and good news gives health to the bones. (30)
  • Whoever heeds life-giving correction
    will be at home among the wise. (31)

Reflection: “Joy and Gentleness”

When considering the fruits of the spirit, gentleness resonated with me most, along with the importance of joy. Gentleness, because I think it is how I try to live my life – through a balanced mind and striving to maintain a quiet confidence in myself and in my actions. And joy, because it’s joy – who doesn’t want joy in their life and in the lives of those around them?

I think gentleness and joy complement each other quite well in life. I try to be a calm, even-tempered person. I always think before I act, and I look for the best in everyone. You’ll almost never hear my voice raised in anger. I seek out healthy avenues of joy and remind myself to maintain a grounded perspective and balanced mind. That way, things in my life can bring joy, rather than falling short of unhealthy expectation. This is not to say that I don’t face challenges in maintaining joy and practicing gentleness. (more…)

Published in: on May 7, 2018 at 8:25 am Comments Off on Joy and Gentleness – Joshua Young ’18
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Courage – Benard Kibet ’18

from our series of Senior reflections on the “Fruit of the Spirit.”

Be strong and courageous

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

(Deuteronomy 31: 7) 

This is Moses (120 years) speaking to the Israelites when Joshua was to succeed him in leading the Israelites to get to their promised land.

Oxford Dictionary defines Courageous as the ability to do something that frightens.

The first part of this is to acknowledge that there is something that frightens for one to be courageous. Moses had lead the Israelites for many years through tough periods and now that they had something that frightens them, that their leader was not going to lead them. Moses is then telling them to be courageous and not to be afraid because God was going to be with them and he will never leave them nor forsake them.

Should we not be afraid when we see swastika in our school, should we not be afraid when there are natural disasters, should we not be afraid when gun violence is taking away lives at schools and streets, should we not be afraid when there are tensions between countries not knowing what the North Korea or the US might do any second, should we not be afraid when we don’t have jobs as seniors, and internships for 1st, 2nd and 3rd years? Should we not be afraid…? (more…)

Published in: on May 6, 2018 at 2:58 pm Comments Off on Courage – Benard Kibet ’18
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Radical Love – Marcques Houston ’18

Our latest in the series of reflections from graduating seniors in the Spring 2018 semester on “Fruits of the Spirit.” 

1 John 4:4-7 

When asked by Kurt to do this reflection about what my favorite “fruit” is, my mind instantly went to this concept of love. At first, I felt like love might be a little bit of a cop-out answer because love is something that is talked about a lot. It is a foundational part of what a lot of major religions are built upon. But, after much thought, I began to come to grips with the fact that love is something that is easier said than done. I didn’t want to talk about love because loving is hard. Loving thy neighbor is easy when we say it and read it in church, but when your neighbor fundamentally opposes your morals and beliefs, it becomes very difficult. We must look at ourselves first and learn to love ourselves before we can turn that love outwardly. Christians have seen and experienced a type of radical love because God gave his one and only son so that we could live. God’s son, Jesus Christ, is the embodiment of this radical love. His earthly work was able to cross all boundaries (religious, class, cultural, political, etc.) In parts of the Bible, we see Jesus talk with tax collectors, prostitutes, sinners, and Samaritans. He effectively dissolves the boundaries between “unclean” and clean people through his love. (more…)

Published in: on April 29, 2018 at 4:30 pm Comments Off on Radical Love – Marcques Houston ’18
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