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Advent Riffs, Fourth Sunday: Signs of Our Times

advent candles

Photo by Alex Harden, licensed under Creative Commons.

On Snelling Avenue, reindeer antlers grow from the side windows of a small red car. They seem part of the general merriment of the season, the feeling of Christmas that Bing Crosby sang about:

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks
Dressed in holiday style
In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas. [Silver Bells]

In today’s reading from Isaiah, we are told:

Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God;
let it be deep as the netherworld, or high as the sky! (Isaiah 7:11)

From reindeer cars to silver bells, we have plenty of signs. Continue reading

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Advent Riffs, Third Sunday: Keeping Faith

Advent candles, Third Sunday

Advent candles, Third Sunday, photo by Melly95, used under Creative Commons license

“The LORD God keeps faith forever,” promises the psalmist. In the face of every day’s news, what does that promise mean today? Continue reading

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Advent Riffs, Second Sunday: Change Is Coming

Flower and leaves growing from dead stump

Photo by Leonard J. Matthews, published under Creative Commons license

“On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” Isaiah 11:1

Even when all hope seems dead and gone, a spark of life is hidden in the stump. Life moves underground in the roots. Hope will blossom again, and with it, justice and righteousness and regard for truth and mercy for the downtrodden.

Not today, maybe not tomorrow, but change is coming. We have a promise and we have hope. We believe in new life. A shoot shall sprout. A bud shall blossom. From death, life rises again. In the depths of defeat and darkness, hope persists. Continue reading

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Advent Riffs, First Sunday: Stay Awake

Climate change protest

Published under Creative Commons license

Stay awake, Jesus says in today’s Gospel reading. Be prepared.

Before the great flood, people were carrying on with life as usual. They did nothing to prepare. “They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away.”

Does that have any resonance for today?

I think about the coastal cities and communities of the world, where the water is already rising. The climate is changing, the flood is coming, and waters are rising. Continue reading

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Read This Book: So You Want to Talk About Race

so you want to talk about race.jpgThe book my daughter gave me for my birthday was wonderful not only because it shows I raised her right (what better gift than a book?), but also because Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk About Race ranks among the best books I’ve read this year. Or this decade. Continue reading

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Remembering Lisa Kalvelage

Every weekend nowLisa Kalvelage haunts me.

Growing up in Germany under Nazi rule, she and her parents did nothing to resist. Later, she married a GI and came to the United States, where she grappled with what it meant to share in mass guilt for doing nothing in Germany. She became a lifelong peace activist. Today, seeing immigrant children and adults suffering in detention camps, seeing desperate families turned away at our border, I believe we are guilty as a nation for the suffering inflicted in our names and paid for by our tax dollars.

Yes, I also remember Vietnam. Yes, I also know that right now we are supporting a terrible war in Yemen. Yes, I also realize the racist and genocidal past of our country. Mass guilt seems inescapable. Continue reading

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Review: Eloquent Rage

eloquent rage

Rage seems a difficult topic,

Who wants to read about rage? Rage seems like anger squared, cubed, taken to some even higher power, an uncomfortable feeling to experience, a frightening and perhaps dangerous presence to encounter.

Passion, on the other hand, inspires and uplifts. Passion moves us forward, gets things done, works for change. Passion comes from a deep understanding of injustice and the desire / need / will to change that injustice. Or from love—of another person, of a group of people, of a cause, of righteousness—and the desire to make that love effective and physical and embodied in the real world. Continue reading

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