Shut up and Hug Me

J. Barrett Lee:

Today’s sermon from North Presbyterian Church

Originally posted on North Church:

When my wife and I were in our first years of marriage, we didn’t have a lot of money. One Christmas, we decided not to buy gifts for one another, but make them instead. Her gift to me was most memorable: a book of coupons.

One was a coupon for “Extra time browsing at Barnes & Noble”, another was a “Get out of doing the dishes” coupon, but my favorite one came with the promise that it was “infinitely renewable”. It said: “Shut up and hug me.”

When she gave it to me, she explained what it meant: “Any time you see me getting so caught up in something important I’m doing (or something that I think needs to be done) that I forget to stop, look you in the eye, and really be there with you, you can hand me this coupon and expect an immediate response. And you…

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Who do you say that I am?

Originally posted on North Church:

I’d like you to imagine for a moment that you are a member of a small tribal village living in the depths of the Amazon. Your people have had little contact with the outside world for generations. However, your village has recently been stricken with a plague. People are sick and dying.

Following the ancient traditions handed down by your parents and grandparents, you believe that there is a sacred order to the universe. When things go wrong, there is a reason. A local shaman informs the village elders that one of the gods has become angry and is punishing the people. This god must be appeased by way of a sacrifice or ritual, then the plague will end. So, the elders begin soliciting offerings from you and your neighbors for the sacrifice: animals, crops, etc. Your ancestors have always trusted people like this shaman; there’s no reason to doubt.

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The Only Argument Jesus Ever Lost

J. Barrett Lee:

Today’s sermon from North Church

Originally posted on North Church:


Image from Wikimedia Commons

This is a passage that can be very difficult to understand. It helps to look closely at some of the geographic details in the text and think about what they would mean to a Jewish person in the time of Christ.

First of all, let’s look at where Jesus and his disciples are located as the curtain goes up: they are “the district of Tyre and Sidon”. That’s Gentile territory: non-Jewish people, different language, different culture, different religion. They are outside their comfort zone, beyond the pale of ordinary experience, behind enemy lines in unfamiliar territory. If this were the Wizard of Oz, this would be the part where Dorothy says, “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.”

Let’s go a little deeper down the rabbit hole, shall we? While Jesus is in this unknown territory, he is approached by a woman with a problem. And…

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Whole Making

“To follow Christ is to be engaged in such a way that one’s stance of being in the world is unitive not divisive. Eucharistic life sacramentalizes the vocation of whole-making by offering one’s life for the sake of drawing together that which is divided. Eucharist is bread being broken and eaten for the hungry of the world. It is the food that gives strength to make every stranger beloved, the “yes” of our lives to God’s mysterious cruciform love.”

-Ilia Delio, The Emergent Christ, p.67

First Steps

Looking into my eyes,
they could speak no more,
except to say, “Speak no more.”

But how can I keep from speaking what I have seen and heard?

Debate cannot convince.
Threats do not cajole.
Controversy will not be contained.

You know whose friend I am.

Even now,
the hand is stretching out:
your healing is stalking you.

This gathering place will be shaken.


For the feast of St. Joseph

I ask for what remains:
torn, tattered
leftovers of power’s playtime,
the broken-open
body of a mouse
after the cat has had her fun.

I ask for what no one wants:
dashed hopes,
the possum
who never made it
to the other side.

I ask for what offends:
fragrance of death,
the skunk who stank
for three days
after being run down.

I ask for these things:
What harm could it do?
You have no use for them anymore.
Let me unburden you of
this nuisance.

This stumbling block,
which the builders rejected,
will be the head of the corner
in an altar of undressed stones.

I know what power
lies under the earth.
I have seen the heart of heaven
in the bowels of hell.

This is the secret
I carried with me
from Arimathea to Glastonbury.

Learn it
and you too
will hear the harrowing.

The Contemplative Companion for Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Originally posted on Contemplative Christianity:

“When I found your words, I devoured them; they became my joy and the happiness of my heart, because I bore your name, O Lord, God of hosts.”  – Jeremiah 15:10, 16-21

Beholding Kings Bay this late July morning. It’s calm and still.  A mystical fog.

Suddenly, I can’t even see the Bay immediately in front of me.

It reveals to me the mystery of life, and in the silence, it’s as if the Spirit says:

Be in this moment. I’m with you. Live into the unknown. Feel underneath the unseen.

We bear the Name of Love in our hearts through every shrouded day until the light of unexpected miracles reveals the Way.

Just now sunlight is shifting through this shrouded Kings Bay, and  I can see again.

I’m with you.

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