Chilly but wonderful photo walk this morning along the canal and over to the river. It’s a bit of a cliche, I know, but the beauty lies in the fractures. We break, we mend, what’s green keeps on growing. Much more interesting than the “perfect” places.

A sermon for the second Sunday after the Epiphany

So what are you doing here today, anyway? What are you looking for—as Jesus put it when he noticed two of John the Baptist’s people following him as he walked near where John had been baptizing.

What are you looking for?

I imagine the answer might be a little different for each one of us. Some of us made sure to be here because we have specific responsibilities this morning. Some might say that they enjoy the fellowship, or the singing. Deep down, we share a faith that’s best lived out in community, and this is an expression of that faith.

But sometimes we meet people in church who would have a hard time saying exactly why they came. They’re not sure exactly what they believe. They just felt some unexpected pull on their heart, and they responded.

And they’d be the ones who are most like the disciples in today’s Gospel. When Jesus sees Andrew and his comrade walking behind him, he turns and asks them what they’re looking for. We can imagine that ultimately they’re after some of the same things we seek here for ourselves: a connection with something bigger than themselves, something that will give their lives meaning.

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The truth of who you are

Suburban Station on a Sunday morning: Empty of the usual weekday rush, still home to the homeless who are even more visible now. Two women chat over their sacks of belongings as if over a backyard fence. Near the elevator to the street a man orates to an audience of no one in particular as if he were the preacher in a church with no pews. “You will tell the truth of who you are,” he proclaims, and I wonder if he is speaking to me, because I worry that I show the truth of who am every time I pass one of the many street people I see every day in the city, hands outstretched, and keep my own hands in my pockets. The suburbs do not prepare you for these. Safe from the sight of the poor and homeless, you could convince yourself that they don’t really exist, at least not here in the first world we so comfortably occupy. How do you decide whose request for “spare change” you’ll honor? All of them? None of them? But there after so many, and some do seem more deserving than others.

In my own preaching I tell people that we are all God’s children, all equally deserving of love, of grace–which is to say that we’re all both undeserving and yet deserving by virtue of having been created in the image of the divine. Why should it be different here on the streets?

I’m sickened when I hear someone say there are too many poor brown people in our great white country already, too many to let any more in. They’ll just have to fend for themselves. Even those who are already here don’t really deserve what we have. There are too many already. I’m sickened, and yet I sense that I am doing the same kind of sorting myself every time I go walking in the city.

Fire tree
Water tree

Woke up early to a very foggy dawn and thought it might be fun to go out and take pictures of the river. Funny thing: the fog turned out to be so denseI couldn’t even really see the river, but I did come home with some lovely images I hadn’t anticipated. One of those times when you risk missing a world of beauty if you let expectations frame your vision.

A sermon for the first Sunday after Christmas

Preached at St. James the Greater Church in Bristol and Grace Church in Hulmeville.

At Christmas time my dad used to decorate the house where I grew up very simply: wreath on the door, floodlight on the wreath, and a candle in every one of the five windows that faced the street. These were electric candles, of course, so in the beginning he had to go around and plug each one in individually when evening came. Later I gave him a set of Radio Shack remote plugs so he could make them all come on with the push of a single button, and that gave him more joy than you can possibly imagine. It was like being God: “Let there be light!” And at the push of a button, there was.

I loved those candles for their simple beauty. Loved coming home to that house at Christmas and knowing I’d find their light shining into the night.

I decorate my own house in New Hope pretty much the same way now, but the technology has advanced so all I have to do to turn my candles on is to plug them in once when I put them in the windows at the beginning of Advent. They’re light-sensitive, so they come on by themselves every evening at dusk. It’s convenient, but when I think about how happy it made my father to turn those lights on every night, I wonder if maybe I’ve lost something in letting go of the daily intention to make light shine out into the darkness of a December evening.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

That’s the line that really stands out for me this morning in today’s Gospel, which is taken from the first chapter of the book of John. That’s the line I really need to hear today.

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Sometimes the simple gesture of raising our arms to God says more than words.

#adventword #raise

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Items abandoned by immigrants crossing from Mexico into California. (A crossing not unlike the flight into Egypt by the One born in a humble stable.)

One aspect of humility is acknowledging that so much of what we have is unearned and even undeserved. I’m humbled to realize that some people would risk their lives in pursuit of just a fraction of what I have.

The card in the display case says, “Donna Tisdale is the owner of Morningstar Ranch, 1.5 miles north of the border with Mexico in the desert of San Diego County. These are some of the many objects that immgrants left behind on her property while crossing from Mexico. The pieces of fabric and wire are what some people wear over their shoes so they don’t leave footprints the Border Patrol can follow.” At the Oakland Museum of California.

#adventword #humbleJoin an international community in prayer as we create a global online Advent calendar: see

When I was younger my spiritual advisers would counter my impatience by telling me that the things I so dearly desired would happen in God’s time, which I took to mean somewhere in the indeterminate future, if ever. But over the years I’ve come I realize that the only time that really matters is now. Now is the time when God is present. Now is the time to be grateful for. Now is the time to live life to the fullest–in fact, now is the only time when I can experience myself as truly alive. 

#adventword #time Join an international community in prayer as we create a global online Advent calendar: see

Back when I was trudging through the discernment process for ordination, I was asked to write short answers to a series of questions, including this one:

“What is your favorite story from the Hebrew Scriptures? Why?

That is a hard question, narrowing it down to one, because for me loving the faith is about loving the stories; more than anything else, I think the narrative is what shapes our understanding of who we are and who we want to be. If I had to pick one Old Testament favorite, it would be the story of the three visitors to Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 18. Laughing at God as Sarah did seems a perfectly understandable reaction under the circumstances. I love the suggestion that God comes to us in unexpected forms, and that providing hospitality to strangers might in turn bring us unexpected blessings. However, given my personal circumstances, being a 58-year-old woman who is asking to start over by going to seminary and being ordained, what resonates most strongly with me in this story is that God didn’t judge Sarah as too old to bring new things to life.”

Well, that answer had legs, I made it through the process, and the rest is history. And I think I’d give pretty much the same answer if I were asked that question today. We women have been working with God all along to bring new life into the world, not just through the fertility of women like Sarah and Mary, but in so many other ways—including ordained ministry.

#adventword #visit
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