Something Jesus said puzzled me. From the cross, he gave John to take care of his widowed mother, Mary. "Woman, behold, your son . . . behold, your mother" (John 19:26-27). Here's the mystery: Why didn’t Jesus call on his biological siblings to take care of Mom? This was the conventional custom. As the oldest son, Jesus bore the responsibility to care for his mother. Upon his death, his siblings ought to have taken that role. He did have other siblings. We know of his brother James who became a leader in the early church. Why couldn’t James take care of Mary?
We are at a year of the COVID pandemic crisis. It was around mid-March that the implications of COVID changed daily life for everyone. No human on the planet has been unaffected. Our generation will mark history as “before COVID” and “after COVID.”
In my city, the crisis began on Friday, March 13th, 2020.
Are you empty? Good. You are completely normal. The things happening to you should deplete you. The pressure of this moment reveals your natural limits. You are finite. You only have so much to give and then the vessel is empty. No man is God.
But emptiness is not an easy state. It leaves you:
For much of the United States, there is a polar vortex assaulting us with cold air. We are in the depth of winter. When the cold bites your nose as you walk out the door, you remember how harsh life can be. At the same time, there is a beauty to winter's austerity.
Seasons are necessary components of nature, a natural cycle. So too, our lives consist of seasons. There are times of abundant fruit. There are times of barren loss.
Are you in a winter season right now? Some thoughts on winter in nature, and in your life:
I know. You’re tired and stressed. We’re in the middle of a long, multifaceted crisis. It’s not just COVID and health. It is a crisis of convergence – medical, societal, racial, economic, and political. Any one of these would be a burden to carry. All together, they feel like an elephant on your shoulders. Here are seven pieces of godly wisdom for living faithfully under stress. (Some of these arose from a Zoom call with Rick Warren. A story for another day . . .)
On Wednesday, January 6th, 2021, I saw a flag charging the Capital steps. It had two names on it. The name of our Savior and the name of our president. I was angry. Not for political reasons, but for theological reasons. Why?
This image, "Intimacy," is by Karl Fay. Used with permission in my Christmas Eve sermon, 2020.
Christmas 2020 feels like this:
There is a house with all your loved ones inside. Every light is turned on. It’s warm. Kids are playing Uno. Adults are playing Pictionary and telling jokes. Prime rib for dinner. Little cocktail shrimp. Apple and pecan pie for dessert. There is laughing. Storytelling. Hugging.
But you are outside. Looking in through a window. Missing out, left out, and left behind.
This last Sunday, I didn't feel like preaching. The theme was "joy," and I didn't feel joyful. It’s really hard for me to be fake. I’m a bad liar. I’ll always tell you the truth, and the truth is that joy cannot be forced.
You can try to create a little Christmas joy: Put up lights. Buy presents. Have a drink. Those things may bring happiness for a moment, but not genuine joy. You can’t make yourself be joyful.
As I was preparing to preach on joy I was talking with someone in an absolute miserable situation. And I thought, “It is inappropriate for me to talk about joy right now. Hope, faith, love – yes. But joy would come across as insensitive." I’m not sure if this is the time for joy. Should we just skip the joy candle in 2020?
Here's what flipped my perspective on joy. Maybe it will bring you some joy in a season of darkness.
A pandemic. A monumental election. Wildfires and hurricanes. Cries for justice. Economic disaster. Societal confusion. Is this THE END? Is this the Apocalypse?
It's election day in America. Many Christians are freaking out, as if the kingdom of God depended on the outcome of a vote. Both political parties have said this election is for “the soul of America.” I don’t want to diminish its importance. If you haven't already, vote! But the kingdom of God does not depend on the ballot box.