Written on (and Spoken from) the Heart

This is my wedding ring. It’s a piece of yellow gold. And there’s a story written into it. My ring’s not inscribed with a date or a word or anything like that like some wedding bands are, but the story is in here, in the very molecular structure of the metal of my ring – every atom of gold carries a history that is important to me.

And when I tell you the story of my wedding ring, like I’m about to do, I’m not telling you the story of a piece of gold, I’m telling you a story about who I am and how I honor the vows of my marriage.

I knew the style of ring I wanted – a yellow band of gold, rounded edges, something that’d get all beat up, scratched and pitted over the decades, and show its history. But the idea of just going into a shop and buying this ring didn’t feel sacred enough for what I was going to ask it to do for me.

Here I Am

What is it that you need to affirm about yourself to help you move forward in your spiritual journey? What is it that our congregation needs to affirm about ourselves in order to move forward in our ministry to our neighbors?

In 2006, while I was at Union Theological Seminary, I began a ministry to New York City’s restaurant workers. Being the largely self-proclaimed Chaplain to the New York City Restaurant Industry was a ministry, but it wasn’t exactly a job. And so to pay the rent I was also working in the industry myself as a busser at a fine dining restaurant here on the Upper West Side. I met a lot of great people, including one of my fellow bussers, Alberto.

The Boundaries of Courage

In 2017, mom and dad both turned 70 – big milestone. And I thought, gee, average life expectancy in the US is 76 for men and 81 for women. Maybe this is a good time to sit down with mom and dad and have a conversation with them about their final wishes. I’m sure they’ve squared some things away, but there are probably some things my sister and I should be prepared for and know ahead of time about their preferences for end-of-life care. But that’s a hard conversation to have. It means I’m going to have to have an early encounter with my feelings about losing my mom and dad one day. That’s scary. And that’s no fun.

You want to know what is fun? Going to see Hamilton. So, that’s what my wife and my sister and I have been planning for my parents – a trip to New York City this spring, Hamilton tickets, a celebratory night on the town. And wills, funerals, and healthcare proxies are still not on the agenda yet. Because talking about the end is hard.

Reflection on Mark 1:9-13

I woke up to head out for my morning run. It was brisk, a bit cloudy. Completely dark. The breeze kept things moving. It all felt straightforward at first, but it was hard to see through the misty darkness. Usually I enjoy running in a light drizzle, my joints complain less. My brain still whines though. “Wahhhh!” By the end of the first mile I was damp, still waiting for the sleep to fall from my eyes. Just starting to wake up.

The Gospel of Mark gives us the briefest introduction to Jesus. “At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.” So. So we know Jesus exists, we know Jesus was baptized, we know John the Baptist did the baptizing. The writer or writers of the book of Mark do not seem to be concerned with backstory, but they LOVE to lay out the events in this narrative. Let’s look together for something else to chew on here, a little deeper.

Transfiguration: It's Good to Be Here

In 2004 I hiked the entire Appalachian Trail from the top of Springer Mountain in Georgia to the peak of Mount Katahdin in Maine. The AT is the longest continuously marked footpath in the world – every few hundred feet or so, the trail is marked on a tree or a rock or a fence post by an iconic, white, rectangular blaze.

Another unique characteristic of the AT is that these white blazes lead you up and over the top of every single hill and mountain that gets in your way along the entire 2,200 mile route. If you add up all the uphill climbs on the trail, it comes to 89 miles of total elevation gain. On the AT you’re always taking the high road – it’s a part of the challenge, the beauty, and the charm of the journey. If the Appalachian Trail was a 2,000-mile-long flat walk, you’d have never heard of it and I’d have never hiked it.