A little journey through this topsy-turvy journey of joys and sorrows and hopes and dreams with plenty of grace from God along the way.

Jesus, Our Consolation, Our Comforter

One of the downfalls of calendars, including church calendars for that matter, is that they sometimes convey this nice and orderly cut-off between happenings. So, for us in the organized religion realm, we just had this nice four-week window for the season of Advent. As always, it had this starting and ending date, setting the stage for the day (or twelve day, actually) seemingly more enthralling celebration of Christmas. So, as we’re still catching our bearings from family gatherings (or still trying to get to all four or however many this week), we’ve had to put away our blue paraments and other Advent-y things in church building backrooms as well as the back burners of our hearts and minds.

As we welcomed a new living addition to our household in recent months, we had to get reacquainted to the reality of newborn bodies needing fed seemingly all the time, including during the latest of evening hours. So, in order to keep myself awake, I would virtually check in with my former preaching professor, who now serves as a pastor of a congregation in Virginia. As with many pandemic-lived-through communities of faith, they broadcast and record their Sunday morning worships not just for members, but for curious onlookers like myself, who wouldn’t mind a helping of hope and all-around Good News in the middle of the night.

Tomorrow, December 14, will mark the 30th anniversary of the premier of Philadelphia, a film based on the HIV/AIDS crisis that seemingly took over our national attention at the time. I remember wanting to watch the movie simply because of the lead actors in Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington, but instead, I was actually reeled into the story. Hanks plays a lawyer who was terminated by a most prestigious firm, who were doing their best to hide their actual reasoning. Washington plays a fellow attorney, one of the last willing to take on the case. In the end, art as a whole is often meant to serve as a mirror on our human condition, compelling us to dig deeper than the bare surface of living we’re often most comfortable staying.

Every once in a while, we can point to a specific moment to explain why a certain song sticks with us. We can remember exactly where we were; perhaps, even the exact day. This is the case for me when it comes to “Isaiah in a Vision Did of Old” (ELW 868). I had just made it to the big-kid choir on the college campus. It’s not that I had that great of a voice, to be honest. It was probably more so becase my vocal range could hit a few of those bassiest bass notes, at the time, and choir directors tend to appreciate that to give them more options in selecting certain pieces of music. One of the biggest “events” this choir participated in was the Reformation worship in the evening on the last Sunday of October.

Dream God's Dream

I never heard this hymn until I got to seminary, one of those “higher level of institutions” that is meant to broaden your horizons or something. I had my standard way of haphazardly reading the Bible until college. That’s when I started to take into account what the Scripture meant for the people thousands of years ago, and how that context, not to mention literary and story-telling styles, cannot be overlooked when we consider what it can mean for us today. Seminary was meant to take that whole application process to a level of communal depth, not just for individual congregations, but shaping the wider church to play a role in helping bring God’s dream to a deeper reality in the present time, as if it wasn’t meant to be completely off-limits to a distant heaven.