The Second Sunday of Advent for Year B (December 7, 2014)


Time to change direction?

Originally posted on The Lectionary Lab:

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Points for Preaching and Teaching
by the Rev. Dr. John Fairless

Isaiah‘s words — which contrast quite starkly with the apocalyptic tone of last week’s gospel reading — are all about comfort and atonement. The glory of the Lord that is about to be revealed, Isaiah says, will be about reward and recompense. That’s all good, right? Well, if you consider what it takes to level a mountain (“made low”) or to fill up a valley (“lifted up”) — I don’t know. Could be a little less gentle than we might imagine. Whatever else the result of this waiting season of Advent may be, when it is all said and done, we’ll be able to say, “Here is your God!” (v.9)

For the writer of Psalm 85, forgiveness and sin go hand-in-hand. When you have a…

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Giving Thanks and Going On

On Thursday the northern tier of the family near enough to do so gathered at Mom’s home in Hudson, New Hampshire.  The house was built and completed in the year 2000.  Dad was eager to move in.  He came as it was built and took photos of the builders’ progress, even when the home-to-be was only a hole in the ground.  He could see it in his mind’s eye, or perhaps rather in his heart’s hope.

But Dad never lived here.  Two days following his death in August of that year the town granted an occupancy permit.

But for Mom, this has been home now for between fourteen and fifteen years.  Succeeding 75 Eastern Avenue in Lynn, this house on Barbara Lane became the de facto center of the McGinty universe.  Visits, phone calls, holidays have centered here.  Innumerable meals have been prepared and served with love. Summers and winters at special seasons have seen this home house more people than ever it was designed to hold.  It not only held them.  It embraced them.  People of three generations, linked by blood and linked by love. Conversations, debates, loud comments directed toward the television screen during football and baseball contests – all these have happened here more often than could be numbered.

Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, we gave thanks – along with all our blessings – for all of this. It was the last holiday here.  Anointed by snow and nourished by two turkeys and several pies, it was last Thanksgiving for us in this place, made sacred by all the events of these past years.

Fragments of so much rise up in heart these days: joys, wonderments, sorrows, moments of warmth and blackouts of cold; the planting of trees and roses; children playing in the grounds around, growing bigger year by year; guests received and loved, until they could come no more; prayer offered from one heart and from a family together; dogs and cats bounding across the house; photos displayed and new photos taken; new photos becoming the old.

All these and more, although I at least cannot retain them all, are together the constant fabric of grace in this place.  They are the moments when you catch the fragrance of God’s loving presence. They are the instants when you swear you hear the constant breath of God.  They are the instants when you know the eye of Jesus looks with love on this place and  its people.  They are the nanoseconds when the passing instant of the Spirit’s wing brushes your cheek.  They are blessings, sacraments pointing gently and constantly to the ‘more’ that life together is.  More than is seen,  More than is expressed,  More than is expected.

This coming Tuesday Mom is moving, with emotion but by her own realization and desire, to the community of God’s own at the Jeanne Jugan Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor.  There new memories will be made, and new friendships,  There old friends will grace the doorway and sit to share stories.  There the Fragrance and Breath and Loving Look and Brushing Wing will be as present as ever.  Because there too we continue to live in the grace that is the presence of God.

Somehow the epicenter of family life will shift again.  I cannot quite see how it will all fit together.  But I know that it will.  Because the fitting is only partially up to us.  There is another Hand and Heart guiding the way.

It remains only – and constantly – to say, thank you.


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What do you call it?
Is it that both
people and ideas
over time?
Or at least,
they can?
That bit by
itsy bit
these become
a good fit
in their own
Comfortable in
their own
Capable of expressing
their own
in a manner
clear and accessible?
Able to delight
in their own

Change is good.
It may be the only
in the end,
for it may be
the carrier
that transports
the unready
to the
threshold of
God’s own house,
Who comes graciously
to the door
with a smile
and a cup of hot chocolate
and says,
“Yes, come in please,
I’ve been expecting
I recognize you now
in your fullness.
Do you?”

(J McGinty, 11.15.14)


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I watch the birth
Of the new day.
There is no conquering;
Rather, the light emerges
From the darkness;
The sounds succeed the silence,
And do not curse,
But bless it.
All is as all should be.



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The following is from one of my early predecessors as Dean of the Mercer school of theology in the Diocese of Long Island.

The Rev Robert Farrar Capon

The Rev Robert Farrar Capon

He is recently deceased last year, an amazing fellow by the name of Robert Farrar Capon – priest, theologian, and cook!

The following is from the second chapter of his 1968 book “The Supper of the Lamb,” A startling compilation of truths about standing at the stove and living human life in God sight:

“Oh Lord, refresh our sensibilities. Give us this day our daily taste. Restore to us soups that spoons will not sink in, and sauces which are never the same twice. Raise up among us stews with more gravy than we have bread to blot it with, and casseroles that put starch and substance in our limp modernity. Take away our fear of fat, and make us glad of the oil which ran upon Aaron’s beard. Give us pasta with a hundred fillings, and rice in a thousand variations. Above all, give us grace to live as true men – to fast till we come to a refreshed sense of what we have and then to dine gratefully on all that comes to hand. Drive far from us, O Most Bountiful, all creatures of air and darkness; cast out the demons that possess us; deliver us from the fear of calories and the bondage of nutrition; and set us free once more in our own land, where we shall serve thee as thou hast blessed us – with the dew of heaven, the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine. Amen.”

Now there is a worthy Grace before a meal!

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Wedding Anniversary Toast

The Diocese of Long Island yesterday honored couples married fifty years and more. The longest marriage (so far!) is 69 years in the making! I was asked to toast those we honored with a lunch following the celebration of Eucharist. Here is my effort:

In one sense the passage of time is just the flowing of a massive stream that began at the very beginning of all.

We haven’t visited its headwaters, and we won’t be there when time’s current pours at last into eternity’s embrace.

But in another sense time is the space within which we live, and find each other, and bring our lives together into one. We call that time together ‘love’, and that is the truth.

That is our truth. And in that place called time we know one another better, we struggle and strain, we suffer and exult, we deepen our commitment to one another and we tell the story of who we are.

Now, in this moment in time, we pause to invite you to this:

To recall the time gone by,
To give thanks for all that has been,
To embrace this present time, and your beloved,
And to walk on in knowing love along the banks as time’s mighty stream moves still.

To each of you, and to the story, told and untold, of your life as husband and wife!


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Outside Saint Mary's Hall, Boston College, Chestnut Hill campus

Outside Saint Mary’s Hall, Boston College, Chestnut Hill campus

The truest freedom comes

and confidently announces its name

in a whisper,
by the realization received that
I don’t really matter, or rather
that I have my place in all that is
without all the crazy striving
the accomplishing the pushing the
transmuting of be into do,
the feathering of my own nest.

The best truth comes unbidden
just knowing without learning
that the best feathers have always been
not those I have carefully collected and
examined identified and named,
but instead the ones that simply drifted down
unbidden through life’s air and landed
in their comfort, where they are meant to be
according to the Love who every morning
is challenged, and every evening repeats
as the light dies, nevertheless,
this shall be.

[JPM, 9.3.14]

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