As I was traveling to St. Louis in February for the United Methodist Church’s called General Conference, I received word that my grandmother, NaNa, had passed away. From my hotel room, I talked with my family and began planning the service that would celebrate her life. I wrote the homily I preached in the same hotel, during the General Conference, and on the way back to Virginia. NaNa’s celebration of life was held at Enon United Methodist Church, her church for all of her 90+ years. I chose Luke 18:1-8 as my preaching text.
I can remember as a child during the stillness of a summer evening hearing the gentle humming or singing from across the creek. In the moments that I would stop to listen, I realized that it was coming from NaNa and PaPa’s back porch. Most often NaNa was sitting on the porch snapping beans and singing a familiar hymn. Now, whatever I was doing, usually didn’t last very long. Inevitably, she would see me outside and holler my name, which was the invitation to join her in snapping beans. And if I didn’t respond the first time, the call would continue until I responded.
Moments like this capture some of the core values of what made NaNa, NaNa. Music was an important part of her life, but not more important than family. Moments like this on the porch were not as much about the beans (or other summer veggies) as they were about spending time with family. There was always a joy when the family gathered at the house. And I imagine as the family grew to include husbands and wives and great-grandchildren, it might have stressed her out a bit to have so many people in the house.
But she still loved it.
Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30″
One of the aspects of Advent and Christmas we often forget is how God’s birth and reign turned the world on its head. We want to think of Christ as bringing love and happiness which he certainly does. But Advent is also a time of repentance, a time to consider the ways in which we have not acted in holy and just ways. In passages like the Magnificat, we hear that the hungry will be filled and the rich sent away empty (Luke 1: 53). At this time of year, we also hear words from the prophets who warn us what will happen if we refuse to take care of the poor.
Amos warns us what will happen if we “trample on the needy” (v. 4).
“Pilate said to them, ‘Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ All of them said, ‘Let him be crucified!'” (Matthew 27:22, NRSV)
Who is innocent?
Who is guilty?
I started writing this while sitting in a hospital waiting area. Thankfully, there was a Starbucks in the building, so a very tall coffee sat next to me.
My one-year-old nephew went into the ER this past weekend. Once he was in a room, and I was able to see him, I was slightly taken aback. He was hooked up to so many things. And meds were being pumped into his little body. All to help him be more comfortable as they ran various tests.
Photo by Marcelo Leal on Unsplash
It was hard looking at my little Buddy lying in a huge hospital bed. I couldn’t help but find myself thinking about my dad. Some eighteen years ago he was in and out of the hospital due to prostate cancer.
Not long after Hurricane Harvey left a path of destruction in southeast Texas and southwest Lousiana, my colleague Rev. Joanna Dietz, an ordained deacon in the Virginia Conference, organized an Early Response Team to travel to Texas to engage in the clean-up efforts in Texas. After following her post on Facebook, I invited Joanna to write a guest post. She and her son, Andrew, blog together at Mother, Son, and … Where’s the Holy Spirit?!
It started out like any other day, watching the news and moving through my work routine. But as Harvey hit and people began calling from around the Winchester District to see what we were doing in response, I felt that tug. You know, the one that says, “You need to do something radically different here and step out in faith.” Things quickly took shape and I found myself with four other people in two cars headed down to Texas with our ERT (Early Response Team) badges, which allow us into locations that have experienced disasters.
Our first impressions were of piles of possessions on the road, hay bales that had floated across roads, and business signs ripped from their posts and scattered across parking lots and sidewalks. Some areas had remained virtually untouched beyond the occasional blue tarp on the roof, but down by the river in the poorer section of town, flooding had done severe damage to many of the homes. This is where we spent our time in Victoria, TX.