Morsels – 4.29.21

Choice crumbs of daily living // Seedlings, Current Reads, and New Housemate

Seedlings, or lack thereof, 2021

Our seedlings are mostly a failure this year. Justin hypothesizes that it’s because our potting up mixture’s chemistry was a little off. It’s interesting to me: the more I care about starting things from scratch, the more likely it seems that results are mixed.

So, for the first time in a very long time, I’ll be buying tomato plants for my little garden plot.

One summer in college, I had enormous success with starting tomato seeds. I want to say I ended up planting upward of 90 plants—my dad would remember for certain. In preparation for living as simply/cheaply as possible, I and about ten friends planned to rent a house together and practice college-level intentional living.  Clearly, one needed as many tomatoes as possible to ensure this.


I’m in the middle of five books. I’m not totally sure why I do this to myself.

I checked this book (Miracles and Other Reasonable Things by Sarah Bessey) out from the library on Tuesday. I’ll be done by tomorrow.  It’s easy reading—kind of like reading through one’s old journal entries. The chapters are both deep and simple, approachable and distinct.

Then there’s this tome (The Chalice and the Blade by Riane Eisler), which I’ve had for a couple months and maxed out the library’s renewal limit. The book was groundbreaking for its time (1988), and in many ways, still is. Eisler presents a more complex review of human history, the ample evidence for a Goddess-based “pre-history,” and the way such a worldview relied on cooperation and equality between genders. In other words, human history has not always been defined by dominance, violence, and war-making. I probably won’t finish the book before it’s really due back at the library, though I am trying.

The other three fall somewhere in-between. I actively read them—a couple pages from one in the morning, a few poems before bed.  And lastly, there’s a draft manuscript from a congregant. I will absolutely finish it; it’s like an asynchronous pastoral visit.


In about a week’s time, we have a new housemate moving in. Justin and I have often lived with others during our married life, so this is nothing new.  In preparation for this addition, however, we’ve really been stretched to get rid of more of our stuff to make room.  We downsized when we moved here a year and a half ago, and yet it’s embarrassing how much crap we still have and how much we’ve accumulated since being in Madison.

It’s been a humbling experience, and I wonder how much is related to the deep-seated insecurity we have as white folks.

Exhibit A: Guest Room Closet

#TheMoment, Part 2

In conversations about “returning to church,” one of the key questions that I think each church needs to reflect on is, “How has the church been changed by the pandemic?” It’s also an important question for followers of Christ to reflect on for our own spiritual growth.

When COVID Changed Me

In conversations about “returning to church,” one of the key questions that I think each church needs to reflect on is, “How has the church been changed by the pandemic?”  (In a forthcoming essay to be published in the Anabaptist World, I offer why I think this is a necessary question.)  

I also think it’s an important question for followers of Christ to reflect on for our own spiritual growth and formation over the last year.  Here are two personal takeaways from how the pandemic has changed me.

Losing Control / Needing to Surrender

One of the first things I and others came to grips with was just how little we could control. Facing the virus meant facing the façades we have built in Western civilization, namely that of individual power.

White folks especially don’t like losing control or recognizing the truth about how little we actually control.  We might be okay with losing control if we feel like we’re choosing it (playing into a martyr complex), but to choose to lose power is to still be in control.

Sadly, I have not escaped this malformation, either. 

But somewhere, in the midst of 2020, I felt a nudge to surrender.  To let trust develop, particularly in my relationship with God.  It was/is hard to relinquish a sense that “I’ve got this,” especially when I’m supposed to be leading a group of people. But the truth of the matter was I couldn’t do much. It was a wake-up call to my finitude and mortality.

It’s hard to surrender (the fallacy of) control, even in order to open oneself to the Divine within and around us. Letting go of controlling outcomes requires vulnerability, another thing white folks often feel a “right” to be shielded from (due to white privilege).

But a life of vulnerability and yieldedness (Gelassenheit) is actually at the heart of the gospel–a challenge that changed me in 2020 and changes me still.

Worship and Trauma

Webinars proliferated in the early months of the pandemic. Everyone and their mother was offering spaces to gather and process the pandemic’s effects. I signed up for a lot of these webinars—some better than others.  One, featuring my pastoral care professor from seminary, changed me.

He mentioned that in any given Sunday worship, a pastor should expect that about a third of the congregation is actively grieving something.  With COVID, though, he said that number was now a full 100%.  That was the first inkling I had that worship planning, and specifically preaching, needed to take our community’s grief and trauma into account more thoroughly.

With the murders of Breonna Turner and George Floyd, my attention turned to the trauma of white supremacy.  Reading My Grandmother’s Hands and Words That Heal: Preaching Hope to Wounded Souls, I started taking more care to craft sermons and services that attended to the unhealed trauma that nearly all of us carry around. I have been challenged to honor my own traumatic experiences and to confront the deeply embedded trauma of white supremacy within me.

One result of these two things: COVID has changed my sermon writing process.

Pre-COVID, I had a neat, day-by-day order of what I did when.* When COVID hit though, each day was full with a week’s worth of uncertainty and disorientation. I found myself having a lot more to emotionally process before I could start writing. Many weeks, I only felt ready to start writing a first draft on Saturday afternoon.

This was a shock to my careful (semi-perfectionistic) process. I had lost control of comfortable patterns and expectations about how sermons come together. Instead, I felt nudged (or sometimes forced) into relying on the Spirit’s presence in my writing. It felt dangerous. I felt vulnerable.

In its place, I experienced a heightened awareness of speaking carefully and gently to the wounded souls on my screen. I knew what weighed many of them down; we were hitting refresh on the same data dashboards and newsfeeds. The sermons probably weren’t “great” in a classical sense, which provided a necessary check on my ego. Yet, it surprised me every week that a sermon came together, and the process was still marked with joy.

As time has gone on, I’m closer to my original sermon prep process; I’m not changed to the point of always waiting until Saturday to write my sermons. (I do like doing other things on Saturdays other than work.) But my attitude toward sermon writing has changed. I pay more attention to centering in the Spirit before I start writing.** I’ve also mellowed a bit, having less to prove and more to care for. I’m hopeful that this will prove to be growth.


*I typically read all the lectionary texts a week in advance to familiarize myself with them. On the Monday before a service, I would muddle around the texts again and then hone in on one or two of the texts and formulate themes. (Parts of) Tuesday and Wednesday were spent in reflection, research, and perhaps writing an outline. Thursday was my writing day with the goal of getting a rough draft completed. Taking Friday off, I returned to my draft on Saturday morning to smooth the edges and clarify my main points. Sunday, I print it off, practice running through it a few times, and scribble changes in the margins.

**In a worship class in seminary, the professor taught us to have a prayer that we say each time we sit down to work on a service. I use the following prayer, which is adapted from Annie Heppenstall’s book, The Book of Uncommon Prayer. It is a prayer for the season of Epiphany.

Loving God, be a lamp to my feet,
the brightest star in my sky;
guide me to what is of true worth,
and give me courage and diligence to keep searching
until I find for myself
that which draws forth my delight and awe,
the revelation of your presence within me.
Amen.

#TheMoment, Part 1

NPR’s All Things Considered is inviting listeners this week to reflect on when they “first realized COVID-19 would change their world.” While I didn’t submit a response, this one-year anniversary of stay-at-home orders and the recent glimmers of hope out of the CDC have me pondering both those early moments of the pandemic and the ways I/we have changed since.

When COVID Changed My World

NPR’s All Things Considered is inviting listeners this week to reflect on when they “first realized COVID-19 would change their world.”  While I didn’t submit a response, this one-year anniversary of stay-at-home orders and the recent glimmers of hope out of the CDC have me pondering both those early moments of the pandemic and the ways I/we have changed since.

I had traveled east in late February/early March 2020 to visit family. Making my way through various airports, I noticed a handful of passengers wearing face masks. 

My last indoor Showalter family gathering, Feb. 2020.

I remember one curious, unmasked person called out to another who was masked, “Do you have the virus or just playing it safe?”  The person responded, “Wearing it just in case.”  I washed my hands a lot on that journey, the primary advice I remember hearing in those days. 

A few days later, I was meeting with the pastoral team from Orchard Ridge UCC, the church Madison Mennonite rents from. It was Tuesday, March 10, 2020. We were navigating what to do about their Sunday service that week, where I was slated to guest preach.  My sermon was titled, “Singing Our Faith: Songs of Liberation, Lament, and Praise.”

(How little we knew, then, about singing and COVID.) 

One of the pastors, away on vacation, called in.  She had spoken with the executive director of the Wisconsin Council of Churches, who, having spoken with state-level health officials, had said we should expect March 15 to be the last Sunday of in-person worship, at least until Easter. 

(How little we knew, then, about how long this would last.)

On Thursday afternoon of that week, I met with the worship leader for the Madison Mennonite service. We had planned to meet at a coffeehouse, where they had stopped letting people bring in travel mugs.  You were supposed to ask for any drink accoutrements when ordering; there was no longer a self-serve area.

The worship leader and I sat and talked for a little while about what the emerging news about COVID meant for our Sunday service. A state of emergency had been declared, and uncertainty was growing very quickly. After a little while, I said, “I think the safest thing we can do, based on what we know, is to meet online.”  Maybe it would be a blip. Maybe it was overkill.  But we knew we could gather with absolutely no viral risk. 

(How little we knew, then, what it meant to plan virtual worship.)

Thursday night, I had a conference call with our church board and I relayed the discernment from my afternoon meeting. We were, somewhat surprisingly, in full accord with one another to move worship online and to cancel all other in-person activities. My guest preaching gig was soon canceled as well. 

(How little we knew, then, how much would be canceled.)

In the weeks that followed, I was thirsty for wisdom on how to be the church online in the midst of a global pandemic. I was fazed less by the technological side of gathering as the Body of Christ, and more by a general loss of control as speculation about time frames and viral transmission shifted hour-by-hour and day-by-day.  In a now-forgotten NPR story, probably mid-April, I heard about the likelihood that vaccines would be the way out of the pandemic, meaning we were looking at a year or more until some semblance of “normal” returned. This was my first “a-ha” moment—where the uncertainty about “Are we going to be worshipping in-person by Pentecost?” turned to “What does it look like to be in this space for a year?”

When I mentioned my shift in thinking to colleagues, saying that I thought it was possible that we wouldn’t worship in-person until Fall 2021, they looked at me quizzically.  “Do you mean Fall 2020?”  No, sadly, I had meant what I said.

That was a second “a-ha” moment.  We were all thinking about this in a dozen different ways.  The politicization of the pandemic was leaking into our churches.  It was changing us.  

(How little we knew, then, that we were already changed.) 

Our set-up for the Maundy Thursday Love Feast with Madison Mennonites.

#TheMoment, Part 2: When COVID Changed Me will be published tomorrow.

Prayer of Remembrance

For a Year of Distanced Worship

Today at Madison Mennonite, we round out a full year of worshipping distanced–a sobering, disappointing, and often discouraging reality…while also a testament to the Spirit’s faithfulness in all circumstances.

We are taking some time today and in our Koinonia Groups next week to hold the tension, grief, and anxiety of the last year. It feels important–necessary, even–to mourn the pain that the pandemic has caused: bodily, relational, emotional, economic, spiritual pain.

Then there are the divisions that have emerged or grown more obvious: cracks within familial relationships, extreme othering within political discourse, racial inequity.

Yet I think it’s important, as the church, to recognize that some of the divisions, like physical distancing, have emerged for the sake of community and the love of neighbor.  This purposeful distancing is counter-intuitive for Christ-followers, and yet it aligns with the call to think bigger, beyond ourselves, from what’s good for a few to what’s good for the collective.

These are complicated, contradicting, and disorienting realities.  I am hoping that our world grows a little gentler this week, as we hold space for ourselves and for one another. So many are dealing with pandemic-inflicted wounds that are still tender to the touch. I pray for God’s grace to abound.

A Congregational Prayer of Remembrance
Eternal Presence,
This has been a strange year.
Disorienting and isolating for some, 
liberating and full of opportunity for others,
our experiences are disparate.

As we look back on this year, O God,
help us be gentle with ourselves and with one another.
Draw us together in curiosity and compassion.
Unite us in our common commitments,
to loving our neighbors,
extending the tables piled high with grace,
as we continue to seek your reign in our midst.

We give you thanks, Abiding Spirit,
for journeying with us,
renewing our spirits
through the generosity of this Beloved Community.
In Christ’s holy name we pray. Amen.

A Blessing for Survivors When Perpetrators are Lauded

Even as I found myself moved by the inauguration (particularly VP Harris being sworn in), I’ve been thinking a lot about Tara Reade today.  And the way our society seems to so easily demand sacrifice of survivors because “he’s done so much good.”

Feeling like the world needs some blessings right now, this is the third in a series of blessings for the (extra)ordinary days in which we find ourselves.

A blessing on you who spoke up,
even knowing your voice would be drowned out.*

Yes! the Spirit’s empowering fire rests on you,
liberating and unleashing the Truth you hold within.
May you uproot the pernicious tendrils
that would have you mollify the crowds with your silence.

Even when your name is forgotten,
                       (and his is memorialized)
your story, your voice, your impact
           on our world, on humanity, on democracy, on the church
           will forever be remembered.


Mark 14:3-9
While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.


*And abundant blessings on you who choose silence, exercising agency over your story. This path is just as worthy.

A Blessing for Indistinguishable Days

Feeling like the world needs some blessings right now–or perhaps it’s just me–this is the second in a series of blessings for the (extra)ordinary days in which we find ourselves.

[Is this your experience, too: conversations, events, and days melding into a congealed, homogenous lump, indistinguishable from one another? Within covid-time, memories blur and the meaning of “time” has unexpectedly shifted. Some days, it can feel like Groundhog Day, ten months in a row.]

First, may you be blessed with courage
to slip out of the shadow of shame:
           of forgetting that birthday/appointment/meeting/really important thing
           of realizing, days later, that you never followed up
           of discovering, weeks later (if you ever think of it again at all),
                      that you never sent that thank you note
                      (the one you really meant to send)
The indistinguishable moments, one after the other,
           distracted you, exhausted you,
           leaving you utterly perplexed.
Courage, though, and laughter will be your escape hatch
ejecting you safely into surrender.

And then, may you be blessed with grace,
for remembering even one out of ten
           birthdays, appointments, meetings, really important things,
           thank yous,
is a momentous feat to be celebrated.


Luke 17:11-19 (NRSV)
11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

A Blessing for Those Struggling to Get Out of Bed

Feeling like the world needs some blessings right now–or perhaps it’s just me–this is the first in a series of blessings for the (extra)ordinary days in which we find ourselves.

Bless you, bleary-eyed, dream-caught one,
who cracks an eye open to gauge the sun’s ascent,
and then sighs wearily, turning over, back turned to the grey sky.
Holy hugs to you whose limbs feel like lead,
stubborn and inert, yet warm and sensitive.

While dread of the day cocoons you,
and traps you in immobility,
the radiance of Christ surrounds you,
and in a gentle voice, you hear,
“Beloved, come out!”

Like one revived,
you are unbound from the blankets,
the strips of cloth that held you tight.
A miracle to start the day.


John 11:38-44 (NRSV)
38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

It doesn’t matter if Mary was a virgin.

The credibility of the Good News does not rest on Mary being a virgin or not. Luke 1:26-38 falls in the category of needing some proactive interpretive remediation. We can’t just bypass it as a text that doesn’t matter when it has impacted our way of being for so long. Part of our burden and divine call is to dismantle life-leaching interpretations and rebuild what really matters.

This is my sermon from 12.20.20, based on the text from Luke 1:26-38. I used the Inclusive Bible translation, which does not reference Mary as a virgin but a “young woman.”


You may have noticed that the translation of today’s Gospel reading chooses different language than what our ears might have expected.  The Inclusive Bible purposefully refers to Mary simply as a “young woman.” Maybe you didn’t notice the changed language — or maybe you did, but have long since resigned to downplaying or ignoring the traditional reading.  I’ve been there.

We are used to hearing here in Luke 1 that Mary is explicitly a virgin.  That her sexual history matters.  Not just that, but that her knowledge and experience of sex matters in the incarnation of God.  If we read this text at all, we cannot help but stumble through the seeming emphasis on Mary’s virginity. And it’s impossible to escape in the Advent and Christmas season generally, with regular references in our favorite carols and art.

So, why would the translators of the Inclusive Bible purposefully choose a more vague term, “young woman”?  The short answer is: because it doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t matter if Mary is, by clinical definition, a virgin or not.

Which of course, flies in the face of 2000 years of dominant Christian thought and theology that argues otherwise.

At the risk of condensing 2000 years of history that says it does matter, I’m going to sum up very briefly why I think the translators made this critical shift.

This text has been interpreted in a way that has impacted Western social structures, gender identity and formations, and concepts of sexual purity, particularly for women.  Mary’s virginity has been used to instill a purity standard and the consequential body shaming and promotion of sex as a dirty act, again particularly for women.

In the face of two millennia of distorted interpretations, one has to change the language to make a point.  I think the translators made the shift because the focus of this story isn’t meant to be Mary’s sexuality or sexual history. The focus of Luke 1:26-38 is the miracle of God affirming the human form to the extent that God chooses to inhabit it.

This aligns with God’s story as a whole: creation being inherently good and worth loving completely.

The credibility of the Good News does not rest on Mary being a virgin or not.  So, this scripture falls in the category of needing some proactive interpretive remediation.  We can’t just bypass it as a text that doesn’t matter when it has impacted our way of being for so long. Part of our burden and divine call is to dismantle life-leaching interpretations and rebuild what really matters. 

That’s what we’re doing here today.  I want to talk about two things that do matter in today’s text.

Mary Matters

First is that Mary matters!  Her significance, or at least part of it, is that she is a discerner and doer of God’s dream.  In the company of many of her Jewish ancestors, Mary is surprised by Gabriel’s visit and announcement of her role in God’s story.  Luke says she is confused, perplexed.  Even resistant. 

This is a familiar pattern in the story of Israel – Abraham and Sarah were confused and perplexed by God’s promise of a son, even in their old age. The prophets were known to be true prophets only if they had resisted their call a bit.

Even Zechariah, earlier in Luke 1, is also visited by a messenger from God who announces the future birth of Zechariah’s son, John the Baptist. If you remember that story, Zechariah is incredulous, for Elizabeth, his wife, is also too old to bear a child.  Zechariah, in his surprise, is rendered mute until John is born.

Mary follows in this very long tradition of being drawn into God’s story in a particular and compelling way.  After the requisite wrestling with strange, good news, Mary, like her ancestors, carries on with life as though she believes the word of God given to her. 

Mary’s body is undeniably significant in this story as the one who lovingly carries the child within her and delivers him.  But more significant is her willingness to wrestle with the blessing of God, even as she does not understand it. More significant is Mary’s willingness to actively consent to participate in God’s dream.

We know this is Luke’s intent for Mary’s place within the story.  Later, in chapter 11, as Jesus is in full-time ministry mode, a woman in a crowd cries out, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!”  To which Jesus replies, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” [11:27-28.] Which is precisely what Mary did.

In Luke 1 and beyond, Mary steps into her vocation as a model disciple—one who discerns God’s word and does it, utilizing her body in faithful acts of discipleship.  Her response to God’s invitation is Luke 1 is evident in the Magnificat. Her response is joyful consent.

Does this resonate with you?  When have you been surprised by an invitation to participate in something greater than yourself?

God Affirms Human Form

The second thing that matters about today’s text is that God affirms the human form as good, beloved, holy: a sacred space worth inhabiting. 

This is the message behind the text.  As Dr. Kyle Roberts writes in A Complicated Pregnancy, “God did not avoid our body, our genetics, our brain, our human condition.”*   God is not indifferent, aloof, apathetic to the human experience.  God chose incarnation, to become mortal with all that that entailed.  And God chose a natural, pleasurable process by which to enter the world.

I wonder if that was part of Mary’s surprise as well—that God would affirm our cells and our experience. That God would choose an ordinary body—her ordinary body—to bring Love to life. 

But why should we be surprised?  Again, God has said from the very beginning that our bodies and all creation are very good. It is we who have cast doubt on that truth. It is we who have believed lies that we should be ashamed of our ordinary bodies.

This is part of why a virgin birth does not matter: “a virgin birth gives us a different Christ than the one we really need.”**  We need a Christ who knows pain and joy, pleasure and heartbreak, hope and despair.  God said, “Yes,” to humanity, to the goodness of our bodies.  God chose the human form because God loves the human form.

What matters in this story is that Love chose to become human, offering the ultimate affirmation of our full, embodied belovedness.

An Invitation to Love Our Bodies

One of the invitations of today’s scripture is to allow ourselves to be surprised that the human body is beloved and necessary in bringing God’s Love to life.

Body positivity is a bit of a buzzword these days.  Lizzo, an amazing singer and rapper, has been a vocal advocate for body love the last few years.  In particular her song, “Juice,” is what one commentator calls an “anthem” of self-love and respect.  She centers the goodness of her body in the song, a profoundly prophetic message as a Black woman.  While that might initially sound individualistic, Lizzo claims her liberation and expresses her joy in a way that echoes Mary’s song.  Mary’s song points to a deeply personal, internalized sense of worth and goodness, that then flows out beyond her self. 

“My body can do this. My body is worthy of birthing the Holy One.” 

Like Lizzo proclaims, Mary, too, is profoundly empowered and participating fully in the incarnation of Love. The incarnation that needs Mary’s body, individually first – all of our bodies, collectively – to bring Love to life. 

An Invitation to Love Others’ Bodies

The roll-on effect of this is that we are reminded that all human bodies are beloved and necessary in realizing God’s shalom – including those bodies we might consider enemies.

I want to share with you a poem by U.S. poet Jane Kenyon called “Mosaic of the Nativity: Serbia, Winter 1993”.  Yugoslavia was in the midst of violently breaking up in the winter of 1993.  As wars often are, it was a complex conflict fueled by religious tensions. On Orthodox Christmas Day, in January 1993, Bosnian forces launched a surprise attack on the Serbs, knowing that Serbian Orthodox Christians would be unprepared on this very special, holy day.  This is what Kenyon is referencing in her poem.  

On the domed ceiling God
is thinking:
I made them my joy,
and everything else I created
I made to bless them.
But see what they do!
I know their hearts and arguments: 

“We’re descended from
Cain. Evil is nothing new,
so what does it matter now
if we shell the infirmary,
and the well where the fearful
and rash alike must
come for water?” 

God thinks Mary into being.
Suspended at the apogee
of the golden dome,
she curls in a brown pod,
and inside her the mind
of Christ, cloaked in blood,
lodges and begins to grow.

“What does it matter now?”  It matters that God loved the world so much that God took on human form.  It matters that God took on human form, affirming “our bodies, our genetics, our brain, our human condition.” It matters that God chose Mary, an ordinary young woman, to lead us with her example of bold discernment and action.  This is what matters.  This is Good News.

Before Gabriel departs from Mary, they offer a blessing; so I offer this Advent blessing for you:

The Holy Spirit will gently rest on you,
a delicious glow that grows
from the tips of your toes and fingers
to the top of your head.
The Most High will empower you
and energize you
and the Love you bring to Life
will free us all.

I pray it be so.


*Kyle Roberts, A Complicated Pregnancy: Whether Mary Was a Virgin and Why It Matters (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2017), 179.
**Roberts, 183.

Psalm 125 in Post-Modern Madison

An Advent Prayer for God’s Intervention

Those who trust in the Eternal One
are like the Wisconsin River,
confident in their current,
but consistent and insistent.

As the hills of the Driftless area stand steady in their rolling ridges,
so the Divine supports her people,
from this time on and evermore.

For the reach of invasive injustice will be too short
to wrestle and uproot the native rhizomes of shalom,
so that the native rhizomes will not be beguiled,
becoming aggressive and violently-minded.

Reward Goodness and Truth, O Holy One,
to those who seek goodness and truth,
and to those who are overlooked by earthly powers.

But those who seek to dominate and oppress,
the Divine Name will lead out
in the shackles they constructed for others.

Peace be upon Turtle Island!

[A post-modern postscript:
And those who vacillate
between seeking goodness and seeking to dominate,
Eternal One, redirect with Mercy.]

Originally published in the 2020 Advent Devotional by Madison and Milwaukee Mennonite Churches.