Last year, humanities professor Stanley Fish wrote a piece about selling his books. The books that had nourished his academic soul for half a century were wheeled unceremoniously out of his home. The ostensible reason for this sale was downsizing—Fish was moving from a house to an apartment. But the real reason was that he was approaching the end of his scholarly career, and the exit of his library was a symbol of a phase of his life coming to a close.
It’s an intrinsic part of Matthew’s story of the wise men that even Gentiles come to bow down before the king of the Jews—but these aren’t the sort of next-door Gentiles who came to Judea to help out with the wheat harvest.
In my lectionary column on Luke 2:1-4, I focus on the theme of hope. Whenever I think about hope, I remember the story of Rabbi Hugo Gryn. He was the senior rabbi at the West London Synagogue when he died almost ten years ago.
Last week we drove 350 miles to Smith College, where our daughter was singing with the glee club at Christmas Vespers. Each year at a pair of services, campus and community enter liminal space by hearing sacred music from student choral and orchestral groups, pondering poetry and biblical readings by students and faculty, and singing carols together.
This year it also became a setting to turn attention to other matters. As a Facebook event page put it, “You can’t sing carols if you can’t breathe.”
Following a speech by Nadia Bolz-Weber at the First Baptist Church in Madison, Wisconsin, a woman in tears spoke up to say that she was unable to forgive herself, because she had been told many times she was unforgivable. Bolz-Weber, widely known as a tattooed, salty tongued Lutheran pastor from Denver, responded: “Maybe for as many times as you’ve been told that, you need to hear that God is gracious, and merciful, and slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and loves you as you are. And as a called and ordained minister of the church of Christ, and by Christ’s authority, I declare to you the entire forgiveness of all of your sins.” The congregation responded, “Amen” (Wisconsin State Journal, February 2).