Saturday, May 19, 2018

Hebrew Text for the Feast of Pentecost, 20 May 2018

Ezekiel 37:1-14        The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act,” says the Lord.

Reflection        What an extraordinary promise spoken to us, to all of God’s people, through the lips of the Hebrew prophet Ezekiel. Who is this prophet that pours words of prospect and promise into the hearts of the dislocated, despairing and depressed? Ezekiel, whose Hebrew name means, “God strengthens” is esteemed as prophet by Jews, Muslims and Christians alike and promises renewed life to all of us.

The Spirit of God does not exist as an abstract concept that we are meant to grasp with our minds. The Spirit of God is the breath that compels the words that spill from Ezekiel’s mouth, strengthening Ezekiel to speak with passion, passion born of the Spirit, the Spirit that gives life, that makes old bones dance. Of course this means the Spirit of God also breathes through each of us. It is God’s breath that anoints our being, the very source of our lives.

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, the day we acknowledge the Spirit of God breathes life through each of us, every language, culture and nation; “I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.” But, there remains a  question we must ask ourselves, “For what purpose does God strengthen us?”

I believe we are strengthened to worship and depend on God so that we can live righteous and ethical lives. We are accountable to God for how we live. We are liable if we fail to care for one another. Through our prayer and worship our minds are opened and our hearts transformed to receive the wisdom of the prophets and be strengthened to use every breath of our lives to live righteous and ethical lives.  How are we doing?

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Saturday, May 12, 2018

hOlybytes: Gospel text for Sunday 13 May 2018

hOlybytes: Gospel text for Sunday 13 May 2018: John 17:6-19         Jesus prayed for his disciples, “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were y...

Gospel text for Sunday 13 May 2018

John 17:6-19        Jesus prayed for his disciples, “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.”

Reflection        OK, today it is time for a reboot, time to install a new operating system. Our old way of thinking and being in the world is no longer working. One after another of our systems are crashing, our programs are failing, and so today we glue ourselves to Jesus and pray for a new operating system. Which, by the way, is what I believe Jesus was doing two thousand years ago while standing within earshot of the disciples and praying aloud to God affirming that the Word, the truth that he has passed on to the disciples, is  setting them crosswise with the world’s status quo such that they no longer belong and need protection. 

In and of and through his life Jesus passes on the revelation of God’s Incarnate Presence to the disciples and “now they have everything” (a new operating system) that God has given to Jesus. The disciples have received the way and truth and life as incarnated by Jesus. They have heard Jesus’ words, witnessed his compassionate actions and participated in his ministry of healing. The questions now are, “When Jesus is no longer physically present, will the disciples hold fast to the truth they have received? Will they continue to act out of the new operating system? Or will they be vulnerable to a world that hates their way of compassion, community, and common good and revert to the old zero-sum system of competition for power and privilege? When Jesus is no longer physically present, will the disciples (and by extension us) will we succumb to the countervailing forces in the world that promote ill will,  self-worship and separation - the defunct and dysfunctional old operating system?”

Jesus knows all of this and so prays for protection for the disciples, something I imagine he must have done for himself every day when he wandered off by himself to pray. Jesus knows that his life depends on God the Father; it is written into the source code of his operating system. Jesus knows that all he says and does is given to him by the Father, the source. In his words, “Everything you (God) have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them (disciples.)…”

Like Jesus, like the disciples, we are sent into the world and do not belong to the world. When we attempt to go it alone, putting our faith in the old operating system, fighting to assert our individual rights and express our personal powers, we are doomed. But, if like Jesus  we remember our Source and hold fast to our new operating system, like Jesus we will be sanctified, affirmed and set apart to continue Gods’ work in the world. 

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Saturday, May 5, 2018

Psalm 98 for Sunday 6 May 2018

Psalm 98

Sing to the Lord a new song, *
for he has done marvelous things.

With his right hand and his holy arm *
has he won for himself the victory.

The Lord has made known his victory; *
his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.

He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to the house of Israel, *
and all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

Shout with joy to the Lord, all you lands; *
lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.

Sing to the Lord with the harp, *
with the harp and the voice of song.

With trumpets and the sound of the horn *

Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it, *
the lands and those who dwell therein.

Let the rivers clap their hands, *
and let the hills ring out with joy before the Lord,
when he comes to judge the earth.

In righteousness shall he judge the world *
and the peoples with equity.

Reflection           It was a day perfect for driving with the car windows open between visits to multiple markets.  Rather than my standard beat the clock, get as many chores checked off the list as quickly and efficiently as possible, I lingered with the vegetables, wandered down aisles that had never been darkened by my shadow, chatted with fish mongers and clerks in each of the markets as I gathered a colorful array of ingredients.  Once home I dove into concocting dessert, then while cutting perfect eclipses of cucumber for hors d’oeuvres I found my self singing, literally singing a new song. It was not an old song not even a hymn. Just singing. 

And I remembered Barbara BrownTaylor’s words, “…one night when my whole heart was open to hearing from God what I was supposed to do with my life, God said (with the voice in her head) anything that pleases you… and,  belong to me.” ( An Altar in the World, p 110) Wow. It is not what we do, but how we do it that matters. 

Do we choose to take on life like a merciless to-do list, furiously scratching off items and endlessly adding more? Or, do we choose to be beguiled by life, absorbed in  the present moment, living with purpose rather than looking for it?

Here is the thing, life is what happens in the present moment. The past is like an empty oyster shell, a crusty hollow bereft of life. Future is airy as unborn wings, impotent and lifeless. It is only in the present moment that we encounter life, life in its fullness, because the present moment is the only place we dance with God.

Following the example of the Trinity (One God expressed in the mutual indwelling of three persons, a community of love) we are meant to live in mutuality of love with God and one another. Each person belongs to the other in the dance of life. The writer of John’s gospel has Jesus pray it this way, “That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us" (John 17:21).

To participate in the mutuality of love, to experience the fullness of joy, to sing a new song to the Lord, we must consent to be beguiled by the present moment. When we say yes the dance expands, we move around, make room for one another and allow good fruit to bloom… good fruit that is like a new song making our joy complete. Shall we dance?

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Saturday, April 28, 2018

Gospel text for Sunday 29 April 2018

John 15:1-8        Jesus said to his disciples, ”I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

Reflection     When I searched my memory for an example of what abiding might look like in more pedestrian language, I recalled a sequence of unfortunate events that occurred while I lived in Nambé, New Mexico, about eighteen miles north of Santa Fe. I was enjoying dinner with several of my neighbors in the home of the one who was a gourmet chef. The conversation turned to me when someone commented, “For someone who is so healthy, you sure are sick a lot.” The words stopped me in my tracks, I could not deny them. When I looked around the table I realized, “We all are constantly upping the ante of home remedies, work outs and doctor visits, unexplained allergies, itches and coughs.” The only other thing I recall about that meal is asking myself, “What do we all have in common?” The next morning I awoke with an answer, “Water. Everyone at that table shares a common well.”

So I got a quart jar, filled it with water and brought it to a local lab. When the technician asked me which tests on the list of hundreds I wanted I was utterly perplexed and returned the question, “If you noticed that everyone who is drinking water from your well has escalating allergies and recurring medical issues, what would you test for?” Without hesitation he replied, “Heavy metals.”

Five days later I picked up the results and discovered the level of uranium-238  in my drinking water was one hundred times the maximum contaminant level allowed by the FDA. With a bit of research I discovered it takes fifteen days for the body to dispel low levels of uranium, which  of course does not happen when you ingest the contaminated water every day. To confirm this finding I had a friend bring a geiger counter to my home. The needle nearly jumped off the gadget when we held it near running hot water at the kitchen sink and in the shower. With a call to the University of New Mexico pathology lab I discovered twenty years earlier a study had been done of the drinking water in Nambé and neighboring communities. It was determined that several of the wells had high levels of naturally occurring uranium-238, including a school and a church and multiple private wells. Apparently that information was not made public.

My first thought was to warn my neighbors. I was stunned by their mixed response. So I wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper which ignited the fury of neighbors who, though clandestinely installing reverse osmosis systems, refused to acknowledge the problem - after all what would it do to the value of their expensive real estate? Naive is the word to describe me. My daughter and I moved away.

Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” Or you might say, when we choose to shut our selves down and deny our shared humanity, we suffer the effects of chronic, insidious poisoning.

We are intimately interconnected. We share a common life source and life force. It is up to us to keep our branches open to experience and transmit this vitality we call life. In Jesus’ words, “Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit.” This of course begs the question, “How do we know if the fruit we bear is good?” I believe the answer is simple.  When the fruit is good it is not toxic, it is life giving and sustaining. Good fruit corresponds to the nature of the vine in which it abides.

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Saturday, April 21, 2018

Gospel text for 4th Sunday of Easter 22 April 2018

John 10:11-18        Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”  

Reflection       When we listen carefully to Jesus’ words, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the father knows me and I know the father. I lay down my life for the sheep,” we hear him making a three part declaration. The first part of his declaration is; I am the good shepherd. Jesus knows who he is. Second part; Jesus acknowledges the mutual connection of his relationship with those whom he knows and who know him as well as the mutuality of his relationship with God. So the second part of Jesus’ declaration is about connection and belonging. The third part of Jesus’ declaration is about personal responsibility, “I lay down my life for the sheep.” Jesus’ life is not only for him self, it is also for others. He holds his individual life lightly, he does not cling to it.

When we know who we are and claim the mutuality of our relationships in community and in God, we naturally take responsibility for the care of one another,  even though this is risky business, even though it may cost us our life as we know it.

If life is all about me then every one else and everything else is a potential obstacle or problem and it is no wonder we live in a chronic state of anxiety and defensiveness. Viewing the world from this perspective, connection, belonging and community fail. Rather than stand in the way of an active shooter we stand in fear and fail to enter a school to protect endangered children. We spend $16.8 trillion dollars to bail out big banks insuring their CEOs receive their bonuses and fail to feed the 49 million Americans who lack the means to get enough nutritious food each day.* When we view the world exclusively from the ‘its all about me” perspective we fail to show up, connect and take responsibility for our community.The result of doing this, God’s kingdom is not come because God’s kingdom requires all of us in our conjoined humanity.

What then is the solution? We must join Jesus in making our own three part declaration; claiming who we are, acknowledging our connection and belonging, and taking personal responsibility for the good of one another. Here is my declaration. 

I am here. I am wholly present. The actions you can count on me for are creating opportunities for you to be here too. I will notice and affirm God’s presence in and of, with and for you. The difference I now see I can make is making God’s Presence known, making God’s kingdom come. Will you join me in my possibility? Will you join me in taking the risk to stand up for connection, belonging and community? Will you join me in making God’s kingdom come? 

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Gospel text for 3rd Sunday of Easter 15 April 2018

Luke 24:36b-48        Jesus himself stood among the disciples and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

Reflection       The risen Christ stands among us, indeed, in and of and with each of us, saying “Peace be with you.” What better place than in Church to practice passing on the peace, the peace that dwells within each of us? the peace for which we all long? The risen Christ stands among the disciples who betrayed and abandoned him, who ran away when he was arrested, who hid when he was beaten, humiliated and died. The message is irrefutable, God’s peace of  wholeness and completeness, well being and security is present and available to everyone, no matter what.

When we stop think about it, the act of passing the peace is an act of radical resistance to everything within us and around us that promotes division and distrust, doubt and disillusion. As we pass the peace we are standing up against the forces of hatred in our world. We are looking into one another’s eyes and affirming a truth that is beyond our understanding. No matter what appears to be going on, God’s peace, God’s wholeness, completeness, well-being and security IS with us. 

Here I must make a confession. Something about our liturgical usage of the words “Peace BE with you,” has always left me unsatisfied. The risen Christ has already come and stood among us,  has already breathed on us ”the peace that is beyond understanding.” (Phil 4.7) The blessing of peace; of wholeness, completeness, well being and security IS already with us. In the gospel according to John we read Jesus’ words, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives…. (John 14. 27).   In other words, peace IS with us. We do not receive the gift of peace contingent upon who we are, where we come from, what we believe, who we vote for, or anything that we have done or that we have left undone. God’s peace is present and available to everyone, right now, no matter what. 

This is startling, this is terrifying, this raises doubts in our hearts. Much like the disciples,  we want to feel joy but we cannot believe it and we wonder, how can this be? We look for peace and instead we see brutality and bloodshed. In lieu of completeness we suffer patronage and partiality. Loss and disadvantage supplant our sense of well being. Confusion, suspicion and mistrust overthrow our security.  Peace? What peace is there for us? 

Jesus himself stood among the disciples and said to them, “Peace be with you.”… “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” “And he opened their minds to understand.” The peace of the Lord IS always with you. This is good news indeed. 

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