Friday, January 19, 2018

Gospel text for Sunday 21 January 2018

Mark 1:14-20        After John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

Reflection      Paul warns the new church in Corinth, “For the present form of this world is passing away.” (I Cor 7.31)  But no one warned Simon and Andrew, James and John when they put down their nets and followed Jesus of the apocalyptic change they would face. Paul is spot one, when we choose to follow the Way of Jesus, life as we have known it passes away. It is apocalyptic and no wonder that two thousand years later so few of us have been able to respond “immediately” as did the four famous fishermen who quit their jobs by the Sea of Galilee when Jesus called to them.

Most of us are more like Jonah. When the Word of the Lord came to Jonah, he tried to run away from “the presence of the Lord.” He found a ship, got on board and before long the ship was ravaged by a great storm. The seamen figured out that the storm was likely the result of Jonah trying to “flee the presence of the Lord,” so they decided to toss him overboard, which indeed quelled the storm for them but Jonah’s trial was not over. Jonah was swallowed by a large fish where he lived for three days and “as his life was ebbing away (he) remembered the Lord, and (his) prayer came to (God), into (God’s) holy temple.” (Paraphrase Jonah 1 & 2) 

It took a shipwreck and three more days for Jonah to figure out that by turning away from the presence of the Lord he set himself up for disaster. Finally he turned around, Jonah called out to the Lord in his distress, and he was saved. What does it take for us to turn around and set down the nets of life as we have known it to follow the Way of the Lord? How much must we suffer before we say, “Uncle” and admit our dependence on the presence of God with us? 

The lives that we cling to are like a fisherman’s net, full of holes and more than enough string to get ourselves all tangled up. What will it take for us to set our old lives down and believe “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near?” How much suffering must we endure before we decide to turn around, to change our minds and our lives?

If you found this post to be meaningful please share by clicking on icons below. Thank you. 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Hebrew Testament Text for Sunday 14 January 2018

1 Samuel 3:1- 20     Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread. At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” [Then the Lord said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.”

Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” He said, “Here I am.” Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.”

As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord.

Reflection        “Speak Lord for your servant is listening.” How many of us could actually say that without crossing our eyes and wanting to hide? Do we really want to hear the Word God speaking to us? Do we really want to hear what the Word God might have to say to us regarding our priorities, ethical dilemmas, relationships and life choices?

Do we want to take the chance that, like Samuel, what we hear might be very hard to live into or pass on? In any case, how do we know if we are listening to the Word God and not the internalized voice of our culture, upbringing or our imagination?

Assuming we do want to hear the Word God, let’ s consider the last question, “How do we know what we think we hear is the Word God?” A couple of clues are nestled in the wisdom tale of Samuel and Eli. First of all, the boy Samuel, the listener, is not the one who identifies the voice of the Lord. It is the wise old man Eli who “perceived that the Lord was calling the boy.”      
  1. Affirmation that we are hearing the Word God generally comes through other people, particularly those who have devoted their lives to listening for God. 
  2. Even the duly wizened, such as Eli, do not immediately presume the Word God has spoken. It is not until the Lord’s invocation to Samuel is repeated three times that Eli counsels Samuel to listen for the Lord. If it is the Word God, we will hear it repeatedly.
  3. As was the case with Samuel, sometimes what we hear in not easy to swallow and even more difficult to pass on.  Samuel had to stretch, put his faith in the Word God  with him rather than in his human mentor Eli. There comes a time when each of us must quit second guessing and privilege the Truth of the Word that rises from within us. 
  4. Finally, if we want to hear the Word God, we must listen. Like Eli we must incline ourselves toward God; body, mind and spirit. Like Samuel we must orient ourselves toward God and listen. But we do not have to be priests, prophets or special holy people. All we need add to our ordinary lives is a practice of holy listening, meditation, centering prayer or even ballet because this kind of discipline contributes to the cultivation of wisdom which enables us to see past the external appearance of things and make good judgments.  (See Meditation and Ballet Associated with Wisdom*) Eli, a high priest and a prophet, was able to discern the call of the Lord because throughout his life he consciously and conscientiously directed his attention toward God. Samuel redirected his attention away from his mentor and toward God - and heard the Word God. We can do so as well, if only we will practice listening.


If you found this post to be meaningful, please share by clicking on icon below. Thank you.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Feast of the Epiphany 7 January 2018

Matthew 2:1-12        In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage." When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
`And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’"

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage." When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Reflection      Is it not interesting that King Herod the Great, renowned for his colossal building projects, for expanding the Second Temple in Jerusalem, developing  a commercial seaport in Caesarea, establishing two mighty fortresses and a wealthy aristocracy, is it not interesting that when he hears that strangers, foreigners from the East are looking for a “child who has been born king of the Jews,” he and his chief priests and the Jewish people of Jerusalem are frightened? These are the people who have long awaited the coming of their messiah. Why are they not, like the Gentile wise men, “overwhelmed with joy” and led to worship and pay homage to this Jewish child? Why are they afraid?

Perhaps it is because in their heart of hearts they know the ground on which they stand is shaky. In the depths of their hearts they know the truth, that the messiah, Jesus, is a threat to the privilege and position they enjoy as a result of their misuse of power. Knowing, either consciously or unconsciously, that their power is rooted in self interest and delivered with brutality, Herod and friends can see the handwriting on the wall. Jesus, the messiah, is a challenge to their privilege and position thus they are afraid.

When my father groaned, “Young lady…” I knew I was in trouble and quaked in fear. I have no recollection of how I transgressed this particular time, but his apprisal rings in me clear as a bell. “As long as you do what you know is right and tell the truth, you will have no reason to be afraid.” Though I frequently did not agree with my father, this bit of counsel has informed my life and leads me to speculate that Herod and his cronies must not be doing what they know in their heart of hearts is right. They must not be telling the truth, not even to themselves, or they would not be afraid.

In his Christmas Eve meditation Richard Rohr wrote,“Both love and power are the necessary building blocks of God’s peaceful kingdom on earth. Love utterly redefines the nature of power. Power without love is mere brutality (even in the church), and love without power is only … sentimentality… The Gospel in its fullness holds power and love together, creating new hope and healing for the world.”*

The Feast of the Epiphany celebrates the revelation of God incarnate in humankind, exemplified by Jesus throughout his ministry. In contrast to Herod, Jesus is led by the Spirit of Truth in his heart. He favors the least, the lost and the lonely, raises up the humble, empowers the meek, includes the marginalized, frees the oppressed and welcomes foreigners. Jesus holds “power and love together creating new hope and healing for the world.” 

We are capable of doing likewise because the Spirit of Truth lives within us and when, like the wise men we allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit of Truth, we will exercise power with love and there is every chance we too will be “overwhelmed with joy.”  We will not be afraid. 

If you found this post to be meaningful please share by clicking on icons below. Thank you. 


Friday, December 29, 2017

Gospel text for 31 December 2017

John 1.1-18       In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” ’) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known. 

Reflection    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God,” means more than God is with us. It even means more than God is within us. It also means that each and every one of us participates in the creating power of God - the Word. The power of the word is real and the power moves through us. 

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” a bit of wisdom from the Book of Proverbs. (Proverbs 18.21) The question before us today is, “How will we use our words to add light to a world full of broken hearts and crushed dreams? How will we use our words to offer comfort, encouragement, support and healing to a world full of disease and violence, fear and marginalization? Will we allow the Word God to energize us to speak into the darkness and call for  dignity, care and respect for all people? Will we allow the Word God to speak through us demanding care of this fragile earth our island home? How will we use our words to continue God’s creating power in our world today?

Have you heard the controversy about words? A recent article in the Washington Post  reported that “Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had been forbidden from using seven words as they prepare their 2018 budget documents. The words are: “vulnerable,” “diversity,” “entitlement,” “fetus,” “transgender,” “science-based” and “evidence-based.”*   Subsequent reports say, not so, but allow that the CDC is “cautious about sensitive language ahead of budget talks…” wanting not to offend conservative sensibilities.**   Who knows if this is true or an alternative truth? The point is, this political football affirms, words matter because words are so powerful we even have wars of words between countries and world leaders.

In his book, Being Peace, the revered spiritual leader and peace worker Thich Nhat Hahn offers these suggestions. “Speaking honestly in any negotiation between individuals or groups is necessary. Speaking the truth in a loving way is also necessary…. We must be ‘lovingly honest’; we must discipline ourselves to speak in a manner that conveys respect, gentleness, and humility.” Our words matter. 

Nearly five hundred years before the birth of Jesus, Confucius, the Chinese philosopher and preeminent proponent of personal and governmental morality wrote, “Without knowing the force of words, it is impossible to know more.” He could just as well have written, “In the beginning was the word.” Each of us participates in the creating power of God - the Word and each of us is responsible for the effects of our words on people and the world. 

As we begin a new calendar year, let us be mindful of the power of our words and consciously and conscientiously choose them to continue God’s creating power to benefit, build up and bless all people and this fragile earth our island home.

Be sure to WATCH the Power of Words clip upper right corner of the post. It is beautiful. 

If you found this post to be meaningful please share by clicking on icons below. Thank you.



Saturday, December 23, 2017

Gospel text for Christmas 24 December 2017

Luke 2:1-20        In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see-- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!"

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Reflection      Something happens to us at Christmas when we set aside our need to know and make sense of the facts. “Why did Augustus decree that all should register? Was it to pay taxes? What was the tax rate? Was Jesus actually born on December 25th? Was there an astrophysical event that the shepherds saw? Was it a rocket delivering satellites? Were shepherds living on the fields at that time of year? Seems unlikely.” 

At Christmas time we set aside our demand for answers in favor of believing and welcoming a glimpse of something more, something more that we cannot fact check and comprehend. Perhaps the shepherds in this timeless wisdom tale experience something similar. The light of awareness breaks through the dimness of their minds and they catch a glimpse of something more, something of God that is grand and glorious that they can not understand. It is no wonder they are terrified.

The prospect of God being born and present might not have seemed like good news of great joy to the shepherds. Remember, until this moment the shepherds and all of humanity understand God to be distant, remote, demanding, almighty and most definitely unapproachable. Perhaps this is why the new story of God born, a naked infant wrapped in rags and lying in a feeding trough, continues to reign throughout the centuries. A newborn child is anything but terrifying and intimidating. God born and revealed in humanity as a newborn child offers an unlikely and utterly approachable image of God.

Jesus is born, like a singular star, breaking new ground on the landscape of human consciousness. But it is not enough to proclaim the birth of God in humankind, to light our candles and sing joy to the world then set the moment aside for another year. The light of the star, God born and revealed in humankind, must be recognized and treasured in our hearts and then reflected in our lives.

Each one of us is like a new star coming to light in the empyrean. With each of us is born the prospect of consciousness, the possibility of new light added to transform the night sky into daylight, to transform senseless neglect and  disregard into sense and sensibility, to be the light of hope given for all humanity. At Christmas Eve we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the new light of hope for all. For the next three hundred and sixty four days it is up to us to reflect that light in our lives. 

Merry Christmas!

If you found this post to be meaningful please share by clicking on icons below. Thank you.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

hOlybytes: Gospel text for Sunday 17 December 2017

hOlybytes: Gospel text for Sunday 17 December 2017:  John 1:6-8,19-28        There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all mi...

Gospel text for Sunday 17 December 2017

 John 1:6-8,19-28        There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” as the prophet Isaiah said. Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

Reflection     Let’s leap to the bottom line message of the text. God is born and revealed in humankind. The thing is, we would rather not hear this news because with it comes too much responsibility. We want a Messiah, a Savior, a super hero, someone else meant to do the heavy lifting of making the world a better place. We want a God of mythic proportions to break into space and set our world straight. A well timed, medium size apocalypse would be great. But, alas and alack, that is not our story. Ours is a story of baptism.

Please look with me into  the glassy still water of an alpine lake or the unruffled surface of a pool.  What do you see? Yourself. Your reflection looking back at you. Let me suggest a nuanced way to consider baptism. What if John, a man send from God, is leading people, all people including us to look into the water of our baptism and ask ourselves, “What do we see?”

By our baptism we see who we really are. Sisters and brothers in the family of God, One people, without division. Members of One body, the bearers of the Kingdom of God on earth. In our baptism by water we see that which we seek is already right here. In that glittering recognition we claim our inheritance, the Spirit of God, the One that comes after, the Christ born again, and again in each of our hearts. God is born and revealed in humankind. This is our baptism by water and the Spirit.

The question the priests and Levites from Jerusalem pose to John, “Who are you?” is the very question we must ask ourselves. “Who are we?” If we say we are Christians, what does that mean? Are we the continuing revelation of God’s light bringing hope to all people? Are we purveyors of God’s peace, working to dislodge discord and repay hatred with friendship? Are we curators of God’s love, redressing animosity and neglect with tenderness and respect? Are we human epiphanies of God’s joy, delivering comfort and cheer in the face of suffering and sorrow? Are we fulfilling our baptism by water and the Spirit by being bearers of hope for this troubled world of ours? How are we showing the world that God is born and revealed in humankind?

If you found this message to be meaningful please share by clicking on icons below. Thank you.