Transfiguration: Christmas Revealed (An Epiphany Reflection)


This Epiphany reflection is the final meditation from the Liberti Church 2019 Advent and Christmas Prayerbook.

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The Transfiguration has always bothered me deeply. Jesus takes his closest friends to a mountain and is “transfigured”: his clothes turn white, he talks with some Old Testament prophets, God says nice things about him; everything then calms and they walk down the mountain like nothing happened.

But… what is a “transfiguration”? Translators use that word because no one knows what this moment is or was. “Transfigure” doesn’t mean just a change in appearance, but an actual change in substance and form.  There’s simply no word in language that can communicate it. “

Transfigure”, then, is an almost nonsensical word. It’s merely a placeholder for something whose meaning we can’t ever know. So even though the words sit there in black-and-white before us, we will never know nor have access to what this actually means or is saying.
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Mary: Waiting for a Redeemer [guest post]



This Advent meditation is part of the Liberti Church 2019 Advent and Christmas Prayerbook, and it is by Liberti member Jordan Cupo.

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As a child, the joy of Christmas morning was unmatched. Wide awake in my bed with anticipation, I would watch the clock count down. I was raised to believe that Santa might not come to kids who wake their parents up before 7am on Christmas morning. Once that magical hour struck, it was a flurry of shouts and laughter as a tornado of flying bows, ribbon, and wrapping paper unfurled in the living room beneath the Christmas tree.

Proclamations of joy aren’t hard to find this time of year, even outside of the church. And there are many reasons to be joyful in this season. There is something special about the smell of freshly baked cookies, gatherings of family and friends, gift-giving, candles, evergreens, and hot chocolate.

Yet, the joy of the Christmas season stands in stark contrast to the broken circumstances of our world. We see others who gather at Christmas, and it reminds us of our own loneliness. We see tables filled with plenty, and it reminds us of our own hunger. We see the gifts of others, and it reminds us of our own financial stress.
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Tamar: Waiting for Justice [guest post]



This Advent meditation is part of the Liberti Church 2019 Advent and Christmas Prayerbook, and it is by Liberti member Jessa Stevens.

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I started a company six years ago and I truly felt I was following God’s plan for my life. I saw him leading me through challenges, making connections, providing financially. I was filled with hope and motivation. I felt like what I was doing was helping people, healing friends and family. I was doing something I loved that connected me to God and his vision for my life.

If you’ve spoken to me in the last year, however, the road has been more bumpy and more challenging. And surprisingly, though at times I’ve been angry, confused, and discontent with the struggles of this company, I’ve been relying more on God daily than I had when I was praising him for all the ease and fun of this job.
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Rahab: Waiting for Judgment [guest post]


This Advent meditation is part of the Liberti Church 2019 Advent and Christmas Prayerbook, and it is by Amanda Mahnke.

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Growing up, I was always intrigued by the story of Rahab. As a tween and teen, it was somewhat perplexing to me that the Bible celebrated this woman as righteous for lying to protect the Israelite spies. Given Rahab’s less-than-reputable profession —and a wealth of biblical heroes who did far worse than she — I’m not sure why the deceit was my biggest hangup. I do know, though, that ruminating on Rahab’s story was an important step in my journey toward a less black-and-white, judgmental kind of faith.

The story of Rahab begins as Joshua and his army are preparing to destroy the Canaanite city of Jericho as an offering to the Lord. In an act of treason, Rahab hides the enemy spies and lies to her own government officials regarding their whereabouts. We have no real way of knowing why she does this. What we do know is that, somehow, this Canaanite prostitute has heard about the miracles of the Israelite God, and she has believed.
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Ruth: Waiting for a Redeemer [guest post]


This Advent meditation is part of the Liberti Church 2019 Advent and Christmas Prayerbook, and it is by Liberti seminary intern Tara Ann Wooward.

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The first time the phrase “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” meant something was when my beloved brother returned home from college—and the second time was when I moved away to seminary. Home takes on a new meaning once it’s been left behind.

Yet, home can also be elusive and painful. For anyone who has experienced exile or homelessness, job or school relocation, the question “where are you from?” can provoke painful memories of loss and loneliness. In a time of unprecedented transience, we might wonder where and when we will ever truly feel at home again.
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Bathsheba: Waiting for Mercy [guest post]


This Advent meditation is part of the Liberti Church 2019 Advent and Christmas Prayerbook, and it is by Liberti member Maria Lipkin.

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When I read some of the episodes of David’s story I often think, “what a coward! How did God let him get away with so much?!” I feel this way especially when I read the story of David and Bathsheba. Here is a king who was supposed to be fighting with his men but is instead lounging around his palace. At the first sight of a naked woman, he makes her have sex with him even though she is married to one of his own valiant soldiers! They conceive a child and David kills her husband to cover up his act. The child dies because of David’s sin.
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This Advent, Pray with the Mothers of Jesus


Yesterday marked the beginning of Advent 2019, a period of time which the Christian Church has historically set aside to meditate on Jesus’ coming into the world at Christmas. It’s usually a time of reflection, meditation, and preparation, leading up to the full-on celebration that is Christmas.

To help focus us in this time, people at my church designed a prayerbook built around the women named in the genealogies of Jesus in the gospels: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary.

You can find downloadable and and web versions of the prayerbook here. Or, if a direct link is easier: PDF / EPUB / MOBI (Kindle) / Web.

Different people put together the daily prayer liturgies, reflections, art, poetry, and seasonal meditations, so there’s variety and depth for those that appreciate and connect with such things. Though it is a product of a particular church congregation, it is put together in such away that anyone, anywhere could engage with it and benefit from it. So download and share it widely and sit with it deeply. We all hope it will be a useful way to stop, reflect, and connect during this season.

Advent & Mortality


“If our mortality is overcome as the mortality of Jesus’ humanity was, we do not leave our mortal lives behind after death, as if our deaths (and sufferings) have been cancelled out. We are not replaced by new immortal versions of ourselves, any more than the resurrected Christ appears as someone who is not visibly the crucified. It is the crucified body that is glorified to immortality in the resurrection of the body. Our mortality is not changed into immortality after death, mortal bodies replaced by essentially immortal ones. Instead our mortality is (even now, though unapparently) clothed in immortality. (1 Cor 15:33)”
– Dr. Kathryn Tanner, Jesus, Humanity, and the Trinity

I got this book in Advent last year and never actually read it. This quote makes me think that, with where my soul is now, the delay was providential. This will be my Advent read this year. Join me!

“The Weather Presents its Caprice” [GUEST POEM]


I have a very dear, long-time friend who is open about being on the autism spectrum. This has given him the gift of seeing the world and its details in beautiful ways, allowing him to do what Emily Dickinson implores of us, to “tell all the truth but tell it slant.”

Below is a text message he sent me this morning that, with his permission, I’ve turned into a poetic form for you to enjoy. (When I asked him, his exact reply was “You go ahead, Paul!”) Continue reading

Jesus Heals the Bethesda Pool Paralytic: Misc Thoughts



Reading through the story of Jesus healing the man by the pool of Bethesda, I was struck by a series of things I wanted to share with you all today, in no particular order. (But first, read the story in John 5.1-9):

First, the man doesn’t go to Jesus or ask him anything–he doesn’t even request the healing himself! Jesus just goes to him and heals him.
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The Gospel of Mark & Laureti’s “The Triumph of the Cross over Paganism”


For each preaching series at my church, we take time in choosing a piece of art to reflect the content. This is a reflection I wrote for our series going through the Gospel of Mark.

Of all the Gospels, the Gospel of Mark is the most stripped-down, earthy, human depiction of Jesus. It is spare and humble, with an earnest pace, and ironic wink. Yet it may seem odd that we’ve decided on Tomasso Laureti’s 1585 fresco Triumph of Christianity as its thematic image—a painting that hangs in one of the most opulent, larger-than-life halls of power in all the world.

Laureti’s piece lives on the ceiling of the Hall of Constantine, the largest room in the Vatican’s Papal Palace. It is not part of the original design: it replaced the original wooden ceiling in 1585, six decades after the room was finished. This being the case, there is an odd tension between this art and the garish displays on the walls below; and this tension embodies much what we will be explore in our sermon series through Mark.
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Journaling Ulysses: Ch. 3, “Proteus”


Frank Budgen’s illustration of Proteus from James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses

Well, I made it through the chapter that’s famous for keeping people from progressing further through James Joyce’s  Ulysses. And boy, let me tell you: this chapter is a trip.

The narrative of the chapter is incredibly straightforward. Stephen Daedalus walks down a beach on his way to drop off a letter. Along the way, he sees a dead dog on the beach, watches a gypsy couple meander towards him with their dog sniffing and exploring, and then he either imagines or witnesses the recovery of a dead body from the water. That’s it.

And yet, in these pages we find an intoxicating writhing of language in its theme, content, style, and technique. The chapter becomes more like a sense memory, larger than the sum of its parts, but also hazy in its exact contours.

Stephen & Proteus
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Journaling Ulysses: Ch. 2, “Nestor”


As I wrote a couple of days ago, I’m blogging my way through James Joyce’s  Ulysses, trying to give a layperson’s perspective on the chapters in an attempt to demystify it a bit. I previously wrote about Chapter 1, and how it’s incredibly straightforward. However, in Chapter 2, I’m starting to see the subtle storytelling shifts that he book is known for.

Point-of-View

I’ve known that Chapter 3 is the sandtrap that gets a lot of readers stuck. It is a full-blown stream-of-consciousness sensory overload in the mind and perspective of Stephen Daedalus. Every thought, observation, and fantasy run together in a constant flow.
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Two Amazing Bloomsday “Ulysses” Performances to Watch


As part of my current deep dive into James Joyce’s magnum opus Ulysses, I attended much of the Bloomsday celebrations at The Rosenbach Museum and Library. They live-streamed the entire thing, which you can find on their Facebook page, but I want to post here my favorite part. And no, you don’t have to have read ANY of the book to understand or enjoy this. Also, there aren’t really any “spoilers” of the plot. Ulysses isn’t really that kind of book….

Anyway, here are the performances of the last two chapters–the “Ithaca” and “Penelope” sections, specifically. The first is narrated in a Samuel-Beckett-ish question-and-answer format, like a religious catechism, and it is hilarious. The second is the end of the book when, for the first and only time, the main characters wife, Molly Bloom, takes over the narration as we enter her stream of consciousness while she tries to get to sleep. The performance of Drucie McDaniel is powerful, moving, funny, and poignant. You owe it to yourself to watch this in full. Happy Bloomsday!