Tears as Prayers

My latest in the Christian Courier. (October 11th edition.)


Have you cried lately? If so, do you know the meaning of your tears?

It’s a complicated question. We humans are not fully transparent to ourselves—we are not fully aware of the experiences or realities that shape our emotional lives. Our tears in any situation may result from past experiences, diverse sensitivities, hormonal realities, and even how much sleep we’ve been getting. We may know there are tears running down our cheeks, but never fully know why.

This is to say nothing of the deeper biological and evolutionary bases of our tears. Perhaps human tears have been selected for because they invite sympathy and promote community well-being. Or perhaps our tears are a way of moderating anger in those who perceive them. Or maybe our tears relieve tension and allow us to function well in daily lives defined by stress.

There is so much going on when we cry. This means it is always a question of interpreting our tears, in the same way that we interpret scripture or other texts. We can do our best to explain our tears, but we likely will never fully understand them or have a definitive answer for their meaning.

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temptation and love – a conversation with Jesus

When I hear again the story of your temptation, Jesus – when I read about those 40 days you spent out in the wilderness, there is one question that comes to my mind. Only one question, Jesus. It’s a question I can phrase in lots of different ways – it’s a question I can express from different points of view – but really it’s all the same question.

The story of your temptation raises this question for me, Jesus: Why?

Why did you set out from your home and your community that day? Why did you leave the routine of life and work and responsibilities that morning? It’s in our homes and in our communities that we have our life and our identity. It’s in our work and in the fulfillment of our vocation that we make real contributions to our community. It’s not through disengagement and withdrawal that we make a difference, but through engagement in relationships and community. So why, Jesus? Why did you walk out on everything for more than a month. Why did decide to withdraw and go your own way for those weeks?

I could understand if you just needed a bit of time away to be rejuvenated. Continue reading

down by the riverside: the water flows endlessly

My sermon from today. In this I follow Tremper Longman’s interpretation of the ‘framing’ of the text by a second voice – his interpretation of the ‘conversation’ between Koheleth and this second voice.


Last week we began with the tree – and we are beginning there again this morning. We know that trees are remarkable biological systems that are able to draw water up from the soil, along with mineral nutrients that are essential to the life and growth of the tree. And we know that a part of a tree’s life is transpiration – the release of water vapor from the leaves, through the small openings called stomata. As water evaporates out of leaves, a negative pressure is created in the treet that draws more water up from the soil.

Of course there’s a lot more going on within leaves and within trees than simply the movement of water – there is also that whole process of photosynthesis, where light energy from the sun is absorbed by the tree and changed into a form of energy that the tree can use – and from there we have the formation of organic compounds that are vital to the tree.

As is always the case in biology, we can look at the tree all on its own – as a beautiful and intricate system. But we can also take a step back and look at the tree in terms of its wider context or environment. For example, this morning we want to think briefly about the tree in terms of the earth’s water cycle. You’ll remember those drawings from elementary school – with clouds and with rain falling on one side of the page – arrows pointing down. And then on the other side of the page is the water evaporating up from a lake – or water evaporating into the atmosphere from frees – the arrows are pointing up. This is the water cycle – the continuous and cyclical movement of water from the air and from clouds to the soil and trees and creatures, and back to the clouds and air – and then back to the soil and trees and creatures. Continue reading