Thursday, January 17, 2013
To all of my faithful and wonderful readers, I have had to move over to Wordpress. This blog was no longer working. While the other site is a work-in-progress, please check it out. www.kradelkids.wordpress.com. And, leave a comment there so I know who is still reading. Thanks so much.
Thursday, January 10, 2013
Of course, over time, Elias has soaked in many of the positive values of Quakerism. I wondered if he would ever observe, or comment on, the inherent differences between Christianity and Quakerism. Quakerism places emphasis on an "inner light" but there is no Triune God. In Quakerism, there is no liturgy. There are no clergy. It is egalitarianism at its best and its worst. In practical terms, Elias attends "Meeting for Worship" every Monday. The young kids are paired with older kids and they observe a time of silence for twenty minutes each Monday morning. Now in true Quaker meetings, if the Spirit calls you to speak, you do so. Adam and I always wondered how our active boy would handle the silence and sitting still and he actually does quite well. But a few weeks ago, he said to me, "You know, Quakers don't worship God, they just think about God." This comment was so astute. For indeed, Quakerism bridles against the idea of being told to do anything--especially with regard to worship. There is no standing up or sitting down or kneeling or reading of the Psalms by a community; each person takes his or her cue from her inner light. There is a lot of freedom for individuality in Quakerism, but at the heart of Christian worship is the community gathered together to praise God together. (Imperfectly, of course. But together.)
For Elias, it appears it is already in his DNA that being in relationship with God begins with worship. And, of course, don't get me wrong. He thinks about God plenty and has rich theological mind, but as a true Anglican worship comes first. Lex orandi, Lex credendi. "What we worship is what we believe." I was amazed that the little boy who climbed the pews three years ago and yelled out at the top of his lungs during the fraction anthem as our priest broke the bread "Father Andy broke the moon." has so inculcated the life of worship through his very busy body and very busy bones. I now know more than ever that worship does shape us, even seven year old boys.
And along that same perspective, just before Christmas Elias complained, "The Quakers say that every day is special. But if every day is special, like Christmas, then that means no day is special." And, indeed, George Fox espoused, like the Puritans, that there was that spark in every day and in everything. And, we Christians abide by the same theology in the Creation story in which God created and named each day and claimed it as good. But, liturgical Christians also mark some days as more sacred, more special than others--namely the Feast of the Resurrection: Easter Day. And that Feast Day about which Elias was concerned was Christmas. He and all of his little friends were really excited about that impending day.
And, so, in the last few months I have had the privilege to see how a young Christian sees a Quaker School--a warm, nurturing, and loving place. I have also seen how our own slow, subtle life of worship and Christian community has already shaped our son. Indeed, our parish is a place of the lively work of the Spirit and it is something to see it grown in him--not only within the confines of those stone walls but in the brick walls of the school as well.
Monday, January 7, 2013
I inherited an old German crèche from my great-grandmother. I remember as a young child, unwrapping the delicate pieces, one by one, and setting them out in front of our fireplace. I even recall the old newspapers that they were wrapped in advertising products almost eighty years old. As a girl, I so enjoyed placing the baby Jesus in his spot, crowding the shepherds around and trying to get the sheep to stay standing close by. The pieces are so old that the angel Gabriel was always leaning precariously to one side, looking as if she is not quite so sure about he good news of the birth of the Christ child. And as was my family’s custom from long ago, we always placed the regal camel, with his own dark-skinned attendant, and the three kings on the other side of the room. They would make a slow circle around the room until they reached the baby Jesus on January 6th.And, I do a similar thing with my own children now, with our wisemen walking around the dining room, until they are placed in the manger at the end of Christmas.
But, you know what? This scene is an amalgam of two very different gospel stories. The first story is from the Gospel of Luke. And, that story is the one we hear read on Christmas Eve year after year. It is the one that starts with Mary’s drama. It is the one that pursues that dramatic story by having this poor young woman giving birth in a stable of all places. It is the one where the shepherds come to adore him. It is the one where the baby is laid in a cow’s trough. And, even though there is nothing romantic about stables and cow dung and long prickly pieces of hay, we love this story. We love this story so much that we reenact it year after year at the Church of the Redeemer. Angels, shepherds, Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and even wisemen. Even as the Gospel of Luke presents us with the lowliest of circumstances-unwed mother, no proper place to stay—let alone to give birth, and the mere light of a star, we think of this story as not only magical, but majestic.
Here, however, on the Feast of the Epiphany the gospel of Matthew leaves out all of these details. In the previous chapter, we are merely told that Joseph had planned to dismiss Mary quietly. And then in a dream, Joseph was told not to be afraid. The focus in Matthew’s gospel is on Joseph’s honor, Joseph’s lineage from David, and Joseph’s struggle to make sense of his change of events. But, we hear nothing of shepherds, or no room in the inn, or stables, or swaddling clothes. Merely that she bore a son and named him Jesus.
Instead, Matthew devotes almost a whole chapter to these wisemen from the East. So, even though we steal them for use in our pageants, they are only mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew. In our translation for today, they are called wisemen and they are thought to be from the East. We think they are people who were proficient in the study of stars and astrology. Hence, the fascination with that rising star in
But, why is that we sing, “We Three Kings?” In the gospel, there is no mention that these guys are kings. Instead, after time, we have allowed Scripture to interpret Scripture and looked to the Psalm 72 for mention of kings bearing gifts. Later Isaiah was cited for proof of their kingship. The prophet mentions, “Kings shall come to the brightness of your rising, camels will cover your land.” I think that might help explain why we think of them as kings and why we see them processing with camels in manger scenes while Matthew merely names them as scholarly astrologists.
But, there is something significant in these wisemen’s identities. They came from far away. They came from a culture deeply outside of the Covenant of Israel. They would have known very little about Jewish laws or worship or ritual. They were absolute pagans, really. In the most real sense of that word. They were Gentiles. The epitomy of Gentiles. They had no scripture, no covenant history, no salvation history. And, yet, and yet, these are the people Matthew describes coming to bring homage, to bring real gifts, to an unknown baby. This unknown baby named already King of the Jews. Irony of all irony, or not?
I don’t think Matthew was being ironic. I think he saw that the birth of this child would be that this child would enlighten the nations, all of them, in addition to
. The birth of this child would draw people who
knew nothing of the Promise to find promise in Him. The birth of this child made wise men into
kings. The birth of this child made other kings fear a baby—so separately that
King Herod would order all males under the age of two killed. Matthew makes it clear that even pagans,
learned and full of wisdom, would bow down before this Child. Israel
And, don’t you see, we are offered the same gift. We are those Gentiles. We are those outside of the tribes of Abraham. We are those learned people. We are invited to follow that star. Not because it will shine so brightly that we will become smarter or brighter or more learned. Not because it will offer us some new insight or perspective. Not because the star will make things clearer for us. No, we are invited, like the Magi, to follow that Star because it points to something life-changing; The Messiah.
Those Magi were able to recognize, from afar, that they owed their allegiance to Jesus Christ. Their study of astrology led them to the Messiah of Israel. And maybe Matthew is hinting that the homage paid to the Messiah by these wisemen prefigures the homage the whole world will pay him in the end times. So, my friends, study hard, live your passions, take long journeys. But, just be sure they lead you to the Star, the Messiah, the holy one of