Friday, December 20, 2019

Hope Comes: Advent III

The Christ-child breaks in. Hope breaks in.

For even those who have their wages stolen, their dignity taken away, their lights and heat turned off, the evicted, the homeless, the poor, the rejected, the tormented - hope comes. Hope will come.

It is our presence as Christians in the lives of others that is the present-day icon of Christ’s love in the world.  Today when we sit around hearth and home around our own common tables, or as we gather in warm churches and sing, or as we serve the poor, give blankets, sit with the sick and the dying, as we visit the lonely, or when we calm the fear of the anxious or reassure the depressed of God’s love for them and our love for them, when we give to those who cannot repay, those with no recompense - we are the hope that comes.

In fact, in serving, in making humanity our business, we find that they, those to whom we are sent, those to whom we go - that they represent Christ to us.

The season is the opportunity to enact the community that God imagines. 

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Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Invisible Visible God

See with different eyes God, the world, and the people around us. The higher work, the profound work, is for us as Christians to see the hidden and invisible workers who gather around us every day, without us knowing names or faces. Just as God does.

Advent II: Matthew 3:1-12

Preached at Christ Church, South Tyler.

Music from

"Slow Burn" by Kevin MacLeod (

License: CC BY (

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Saturday, December 7, 2019

The Invisible God - Advent 2a sermon

Anglican author
G. K. Chesterton
Was a member of the “Inklings”
That group
Which included
C. S. Lewis
And J.R.R. Tolkien

Chesterton was a
Lay theologian
And author

In his poem entitled
“The Ballad of the White Horse”
He begins book IV
(Of this 2,684 line poem)
with these words:

“And well may God with the serving-folk
Cast in His dreadful lot;
Is not He too a servant,
And is He not forgot?”

The poem is about King Alfred
who comes
To a fireside
Where a servant woman
Is cooking

She thinks he is a
She takes pity on him
And says
He can stay
       And eat
              In exchange for  
watching her fire

It is in this light
that king Alfred
begins his reflections

(And, I am persuaded
by the teaching of
Poet Malcolm Guite here)

The king
As he watches
He has
Come low
And is now
Minding the fire
For the least
Servant of his household
Has become
The least of the least
Of servants

It is here the king has a revelation
That this is God’s
Great act
To be born a human
And be a servant to humankind

The poet
Chesterton plays
On this theological truth
throughout this portion
Of the poem
That God is like the servant
God is the anonymous
Unthanked God

God who gives all that we have
The God who provides for us

The God who also
Comes among us
And serves us
First in the very act
Of becoming human

Born in the least royal
Of halls
A manger

Then to live
As a wondering
Homeless preacher
Begging for food
When in a town

       Giving dignity to the unseen
and healing the sick
Raising the dead

And finally to take
Up the cross
For our own sake

Chesterton is reminding us
Of the great kenosis of life
       The Gospel paradox
That God
has come low
The renunciation of god-likeness
become human
Born of a woman
The great
Incarnation event

As Christians
(In our gift giving
Our preparing of our homes
our cooking)
in a physical way
       God’s service

By doing these uniquely Christmas tasks
we are
The spiritual
Reality of God
With the physical world around us

It is all too easy
To allow the spirit of God
And our theology
To become
An experience of emotion
Or meaning
That lives within us
Or dwells
In our minds

But the incarnation
Rejects such spiritualizations
Of the Gospel

The Incarnation
Is a unifying
Whereby God
Becomes human
In the unique
Form of
A very real person
Christ Jesus.

Our Advent time
And Christmas preparations
Are one where we
This kenotic theology
       Of servanthood

We practice
the spiritual
the physical world

This is a time
Of intentional
What we believe
who we think we are
How we act with others
How we interact in relationships
How we serve others
And how we give

For Christians
Such work
Is not a once a year
Around the holidays
The holidays
Are a unique
To sharpen our skills
Of love

You see
It is not only
That the king in the poem
The lowliness of God
In Christ Jesus
the lengths
To which God
Has gone to serve
Through this different light
The king also
Sees those who serve

There is a deep truth here

Chesterton writes a bit more

“For God is a great servant,
And rose before the day,
From some primordial slumber torn;
But all we living later born
Sleep on, and rise after the morn…”

Here Chesterton is referring
To all the labor
By servants
That goes unseen
That is never told
And industry
That is never given thanks for

And production
On our behalf
that goes invisible
To our waking eye

It would indeed be a good thing
If in this season of advent
And Christmas
We understood the great
Notion of God’s
Action of coming low
And becoming one of us

But God
And Chesterton alike
Are after a bit more…I think

That is
To see with different eyes
the world,
and people around us

The higher work
The profound work
Is for us as Christians
To come to see the hidden
Work that goes on all around us
-      The invisible work

For in doing so
We see
As did
King Alfred in
Chesterton’s poem
The work of the servant
At the fire
And the baking of cakes
And preparation of ale
All undertaken
While he slept
And with
Hardly a thought

In our world today
We do not live in some
Downton Abbey, Georgian home, or Queen’s palace
With servants
Scurrying behind closed doors
food prepared out of sight
 fires started while we sleep
Or beds made
while we go down
For breakfast
For us
There is a different
and wholly invisible world
That goes on around us
And serves us
And makes the manner of life
We live possible

This is the world
Where the groceries are delivered
By night
And unpacked and stocked
By cold glove worn hands

This is the world
Where people
Operate and run the 24 hour stores
Who drive all night
On trains, trucks and boats
So that we might find the things
       We want
              When we need them

These are the people
       Who operate the largest
              And mostly invisible
                      Infrastructure of the Texas ship channel
                             All night
                                    Or watch
                                           While oil, gas, and electricity
                                                  Are ready for your use

This is the world of
The unnamed server at your table
The name we
Quickly forget while ordering

Or cooks behind the hidden restaurant
Kitchen wall
The bussers who clean our table
or after we eat

The wholly
       Invisible ones
              Who clean restrooms
                      And mop the endlessly
                             Dirty floors

Our trash collectors and mail carriers
Many of whom work
two jobs
To make ends meet

While we live
Lives without sight

These are the night people
As Ray Wylie Hubbard sings

Or the people
in the children’s book
The Night Kitchen
by Maurice Sendak
Laboring to prepare the next days’ food
We might think differently
Of the Starbucks scone
or muffin
Handed to us by
the invisibly named

These are the people of Laura Cowan’s
The Usborne Book of Night Time
That reveals a world
That never sleeps
The doctors and nurses
The police and firemen
Who keep watch dear lord

As Ralph Ellison
Wrote in his 1952
Masterpiece on race
Entitled The Invisible Man

(a book that changed the face
Of American literature)

 “I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed, everything and anything except me.”

We have an opportunity
In Advent and Christmas
To connect
(as God does)
The world of Spirit
With the world of the physical
It is a time
Not only to serve our
Brothers and sisters
Our family
Our friends
… it is a time to serve others too

And, more than that
It is a time to see the unseen
The invisible people of our world
Who spend their every day
In service to us
And others

And with gratitude to give
Them thanks

For in doing so
We show
A deep understanding
Of a visible God
who comes to serve
and serves us still

as Chesterton reminds us

“And well may God with the serving-folk
Cast in His dreadful lot;
Is not He too a servant,
And is He not forgot?”

Sermon "Invisible God" Preached on Advent 2A at Christ Church South Campus, Tyler.
The selection of the poem, the history, and the theological background for the poem is taken from Malcolm Guite's excellent Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany book entitled: Waiting on the Word. You can purchase the book here.


  • "Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • "Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer." Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • "Perfection, in a Christian sense, means becoming mature enough to give ourselves to others." Kathleen Norris
  • "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." John Wesley
  • "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." G. K. Chesterton
  • "One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans." C. S. Lewis
  • "When we say, 'I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,' we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the church seldom asks us for forgiveness." Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
  • "Christians are hard to tolerate; I don't know how Jesus does it." Bono
  • "It's too easy to get caught in our little church subcultures, and the result is that the only younger people we might know are Christians who are already inside the church." Dan Kimball