Trust, Love, and Acceptance

The Word became flesh and blood,
    and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
    the one-of-a-kind glory,
    like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
    true from start to finish.

John 1:14 (The Message)

Advent, which ended last night, is the season in which we learn to be patient. We don’t like waiting. We hate the simple waits, like long lines in the store or traffic or packages to arrive. We hate the bigger waiting. When will the world be made right? When will the injustice be rectified? When will children’s thirst be quenched instead of dying of dehydration at borders? In our current politic climate, the promise of peace seems distant and unattainable, outside the reach of our waiting.

Advent is the season in which we learn to recognize the mystery of our human journey and confront, in holy waiting, its complexities. Today, as we begin the wondrous season of Christmas, we begin the process again of learning that God walks with us in that journey of expectation. The story of Christmas isn’t so much about a baby or a manger or shepherds or angels, though it is all those things. The story of Christmas is about the divine sustainer of the cosmos robing in human flesh in the most vulnerable and innocent way to experience what it’s like to do things like wait and hope, even in frustration.

Lest we fall victim to cynicism in our reflection, we should remember that our journey through the wastelands of the earth is marked with moments of stunning beauty. I often wonder how newborns see the world as their eyes begin to flutter open, their mouths and hands grasping for their mother in unfiltered trust. I recently read an author who described babies as thinking, not in words, but in feelings. They think in feelings of trust, love, and acceptance.

Dear friends, imagine God innocently swaddled in Mary’s arms thinking not of the complexities of divine existence or the tragedies of the world, but simply and gently grasping Mary’s finger and feeling pure trust and love and acceptance. Christmas is the season in which we learn that God not only loves and accepts us, but also trusts us. And in this profound trust, we are given a great gift: the ability to do good. As Jesus grasps Mary’s finger, Mary responds in motherly affection and joy.

So, you’ve waited. The Advent season of waiting has now given way to the Christmas season of light, a season of wonder and beauty. You’ve thought about the world and its tragedies as you’ve confessed and lamented during Advent. During the 12 days of Christmas, revel in God enfleshed and what that means for the world. How will you act upon God’s pure and profound trust in humanity? What good will you do, and what love will you extend? How will you accept the pure loving hand of God, eyes filled with wonder and a heart bursting with love, and give back in simple affection and joy?

May the peace of Christ be with you in your journey,

Launching the Pilgrim House

Stop at the crossroads and look around;
ask for the ancient paths.
Where is the good way?
Then walk in it and find a resting place for yourselves.

Set up markers, put up signs;
think about the road you have traveled,
the path you have taken.

– The Book of Jeremiah (6:16, 31:21)

Humans have engaged in pilgrimage since the earliest days of religion and faith. A pilgrimage is a venture, a movement, a journey toward a place where the presence and mystery of God is encountered.

But much of the institutional church has lost this spirit. We’ve filled our houses of worship with division, bitterness, and power-struggles. In our work to make the church an effective organization we’ve lost the wonder and beauty that was pilgrimage, a sacred journey on which we encounter God in unexpected ways.

My own journey has included great sorrow and hardship. After a challenging childhood, I was a traditional pastor for 15 difficult years. I know what it’s like to be on a journey, encountering God in profound ways and yet not finding places or times to express that joy without the baggage that accompanies most institutional Christianity. Rather than asking, “Where have you seen the beauty of God?” our churches have lengthy business meetings and endless committees. Wonder is exchanged for capitalism, true charity is abandoned in the quest for profit, and people are valued less than property that sits unused most of the week.

In the next few weeks I will be launching a new personal ministry called The Pilgrim House, initially a one-year experiment through the end of 2019.

The Pilgrim House will strive to be a ministry of times, places, and resources for the moments in pilgrimage when you need to rest. It is in these moments that we feast, share, and imagine. It is here where we make our sign-posts and consider the paths we’ve taken. The Pilgrim House will include reflective blog entries, encouraging podcasts, celebratory liturgies in various locations, and learning events. The Pilgrim House will hopefully be an ever-changing way to stop and re-discover the beauty and wonder of Christianity in new expressions of faith.

After being raised by fundamentalists, educated by evangelicals and reformed and Anglicans, and time spent ministering among Anabaptists, I now consider myself a post-denominational pastor to pilgrims who are hurt, wandering, or simply curious and questioning, and I hope that this new turn in the path will lead to peace and hope for those that journey with me.

So, where can we go from here?

  1. You can learn more about me here, or follow on Twitter or Facebook.
  2. Along the journey you can read encouraging letters called Pilgrims’ Notes, published weekly (beginning Tuesday, December 25).
  3. Or, you can listen to a periodic podcast on journeying with Jesus (first episode coming Sunday, December 30).
  4. You are invited to participate in a Pilgrim House liturgy that will ritually celebrate themes discussed in the podcast (beginning around Sunday, January 6).
  5. If you find this ministry helpful in your faith pilgrimage, you could consider becoming a patron and support The Pilgrim House into something long-term.

I look forward to the ways we can journey together.

Blessings, friends, on your pilgrimage!