The Way to High Places

A couple of years ago I went hiking the high places of Summit County, Colorado. Tramping and hiking the old-fashioned way – with USGS topo map and compass.  On one of the days we headed out for Eccles Pass at the summit of the Meadow Creek trail, about 13,500 feet.  Once we got above 11,000 feet the trail and the markers were mostly covered in an early October snow.  Easy to lose your way.

It was at that point we ran into some other folks.  While we were headed to the Pass, they were looking for Lilly Pad Lake.  We had been there the day before and knew that it was about 2,500 feet lower in elevation and about 4 miles or so East.  They were hiking the new-fangled way with a hand-held GPS device.  And they showed us the dots on the screen and assured us the lake was nearby. Continue reading

Everyday thin places

The Gospel of this second Sunday in Advent points to John the Baptist as, “A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths…’ ”

Advent is a time when we commemorate the adventus of Jesus — his coming, arrival, or birth into the days and nights of our world. At Advent Christians look forward in expectation of Christ’s future coming, to that time when God will culminate what he has now only inaugurated, when he will finish what he has started, and will fulfill what he has promised. Continue reading

Finding the wilderness

The Gospel of this 2nd Sunday in Advent points to John the Baptist as, “A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths…’”

Advent is a time when we commemorate the adventus of Jesus — his coming, arrival, or birth into the days and nights of our world. At Advent Christians look forward in expectation of Christ’s future coming, to that time when God will culminate what he has now only inaugurated, when he will finish what he has started, and will fulfill what he has promised. Continue reading

The Immaculate Conception: celebration and theology

The Immaculate Conception – Francis of Assisi, Bonaventure, Anthony of Padua, and John Duns Scotus

It’s important to understand what the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is and what it is not. Some people think the term refers to Christ’s conception in Mary’s womb without the intervention of a human father; but that is the Virgin Birth. Others think the Immaculate Conception means Mary was conceived “by the power of the Holy Spirit,” in the way Jesus was, but that, too, is incorrect. The Immaculate Conception means that Mary, whose conception was brought about the normal way, was conceived without original sin or its stain—that’s what “immaculate” means: without stain. The essence of original sin consists in the deprivation of sanctifying grace, and its stain is a corrupt nature. Mary was preserved from these defects by God’s grace; from the first instant of her existence she was in the state of sanctifying grace and was free from the corrupt nature original sin brings. Continue reading

Preparing the Way: salvation

4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. 5 Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, 6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

Luke casts the call of John the Baptist in the form of an Old Testament prophetic call (Luke 3:2) and extends the quotation from Isaiah found in Mark 1:3 (Isaiah 40:3) by the addition of Isaiah 40:4-5 in Luke 3:5-6. In doing so, Luke presents the theme of the universality of salvation, which he has announced earlier in the words of Simeon (2:30-32). Moreover, in describing the expectation of the people (3:15), Luke is characterizing the time of John’s preaching in the same way as he had earlier described the situation of other devout Israelites in the infancy narrative (2:25-26, 37-38). Later, in 3:7-18 Luke presents the preaching of John the Baptist who urges the crowds to reform in view of the coming wrath (Luke 3:7, 9: eschatological preaching), and who offers the crowds certain standards for reforming social conduct (Luke 3:10-14: ethical preaching), and who announces to the crowds the coming of one mightier than he (Luke 3:15-18: messianic preaching). Continue reading

Preparing the Way: repent

…the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert

Luke’s phrase in 3:2, “the word of God came,” is reminds us of Luke’s core and central focus on God. The phrase clearly identifies the source of divine inspiration behind John’s work but also puts us on notice that Luke’s emphasis on God as the story’s primary actor will be carried forward and enlarged. Other evidences of this most intrinsic element show up in this section—for example, the citation of Scripture by the narrator (3:4–6) who thus presents God’s own perspective on John’s ministry, by Jesus (4:4, 8, 12) who is engaged in a process of discerning the way of God, and by the devil (4:10–11) who tries to garner the authoritative voice of God for his own agenda of frustrating God’s purpose; the activity of the Holy Spirit, God’s empowering and guiding agent (3:16, 22; 4:1); the voice of God, heard by Jesus and Luke’s audience, breaking into the narrative in a way that echoes his voice to Israel in the past (3:22); the genealogy of Jesus (3:23–28), showing Jesus’ relation to Israel’s past, recalling significant aspects of the story of God’s interaction with his people, and testifying to the relation of Jesus to God as his Son; and above all the account of Jesus’ test in the wilderness (4:1–13), pitting the aim of God and the design of the devil against each other. Continue reading

Preparing the Way: history

1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.

The chronological data of these verses reflects the conventions of Greco-Roman historiography as well as a pattern found in some Jewish prophetic books (Jer 1:1-3; Ezek 1:1-3; Hos 1:1; Isa 1:1). Luke seeks to place his “orderly account” (Lk 1:1) within the context of “world” history. In addition, this writing, addressed to “Most Excellent Theophilus” (Lk 1:3), places the events within the context of the rulers and times (and some historiographic forms) that Theophilus would know. It is likely that he was some type of Roman official. Continue reading

Preparing the Way: context

1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert. 3 He went throughout (the) whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. 5 Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, 6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” Continue reading

A Promise big enough to save

 “The days are coming…[when] Judah will be made safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure.” Such was the promise of the prophet Jeremiah to the beleaguered people of the City of David under the ominous cloud of war and death – the power of the Egyptian King Neco to the south and the armies of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar to the north and east.  That was then. Where are the prophets now when Jerusalem is a divided city and the missiles of enemies have the City of David within their reach. Are the prophets now replaced by the anti-missile technology? Those system promise to protect Israel, but it cannot promise to save Israel, to make Jerusalem safe and secure.

There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world.” Continue reading

Thinnest of places

Did you know that a “new year” begins with Advent? We begin a new liturgical year, a year when most of the gospels will be from the Gospel of Luke (referred to as “Year C”). While the years and readings change, there are constants with the arrival of Advent.

Advent is a time when we commemorate the adventus of Jesus — his coming, arrival, or birth into the days and nights of our world. Christians live in normal time just like everyone else — our normal chronos as time ticks off the days, weeks, months, and years. The early Christian thinkers held that God lives in kairos, a “time” when past, present, and future are but a single moment. The awesome moments of salvation history are when chronos and kairos meet. Continue reading