Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Gospel for Epiphany Sunday, 6 January 2014

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      Three gifts. What three gifts do each one of us have to lay at the feet of the least among us? What three gifts do we have to express our recognition and gratitude for the revelation that God is with us... with all people .. all of the time?

According to the writer of Matthew’s gospel the epiphany of Jesus, which is to say, the revelation of God present in this world of ours, was accompanied by the offering of three gifts, three extravagant gifts. The question is, does the custom of offering our most precious gifts to respectfully acknowledge the value and worth of other people - even strangers - even a virtually homeless infant - does the custom of dignifying others by offering our gifts continue among us today?

Let’s begin with this morning. How many of us woke up this morning, looked outside and marveled at the diversity, complexity and beauty of creation? How many of us recognized the artistry and elegance of nature as a revelation of God present? How many of us offered our gifts of praise, reverence and conscious care for this fragil earth our island home? How many of us made choices to revere and respect the earth, even at our own expense?

How many of us walked into a public place this day, looked into the eyes of friends and strangers, saw weariness and vigor, suffering and joy? How many of us recognized the tenacity and infirmity of our sisters and brothers as a revelation of God present? How many of us offered our gifts to comfort, encourage and support humanity? How many of us made choices to dignify every human being, even at our own expense?

How many of us remember the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you?” (60.1) How many of us have experienced the intuition or insight into the reality that God is closer to us than our own breath? Paul says it this way, “God’s love (or light) has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us?” (Romans 5.5) How many of us understand the light and love of God lives at the very center of our being and this light, this love of God is meant to flow out of us for the benefit of others? 

Don’t you see, that is what it means to open our treasure chests. That is what it means to offer our most precious gifts to respect and dignify every person - especially the least among us. That is what the Magi did two thousand years ago, and as continuing revelations or epiphanies of God present we are intended to do likewise.  What three gifts will you lay at the feet of the least among us?

Thanks for sharing this message with your friends by clicking on the icons below. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Gospel text for Sunday 29 December 2013

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      My neighbors really are a jolly lot. Many of their homes are framed with white lights, luminarios and bevys of baby sahuaros wearing Santa caps. (I do believe they dance when we are not looking.) I digress. There is one house that draws me in every time I pass by. There are no lights lining the walk or the house frame, no twinkling wreath, no snowmen. Not a single well dressed cactus. There is just the warm glow of a lighted Christmas tree inside the picture window. I must have passed by three or four times before I realized what about this simple scene attracted me.
Usually the wooden blinds on the windows facing the street are closed. When they are open it is impolite to look into a stranger’s living room. Except at Christmas. At Christmas the window into the heart of the house is open and we are invited to witness the fragile light of the life inside revealed by the Christmas tree. For what is a Christmas tree if it is not the revelation of the light at the center of our living rooms? at the center of our lives? at the center of our selves? What is a Christmas tree if it is not the revelation of our delight in the light, our satisfaction in the Word of God that is the essence of our being that has been since the beginning?

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Unlike Luke’s gospel that invites us to dig our toes into the dusty desert and witness the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, John invites us into the spiritual dimension ten thousand feet above the ground. In truth, John’s gospel does more than invite us to the heights of vision. John admonishes us to be and to become the living revelation of God’s light and life, right here, right now. 

As people of God we have the confidence and courage to open the picture windows of our hearts and allow the light of our Christ to shine through our lives and through our words. As people of God we embody the light and life and Word of God in our blood and in our bones, in every decision we make, in every action we take. It is up to us to be as warm and welcoming lights on the revelatory Christmas tree and shine God’s light in the dark places of our world. 

We, the people of God, are people of the Word, the Word that brings light into a world fraught with darkness. May the light of our Christ shine through all of our words to illume the value and dignity of every human being.  May the light of our Christ magnify God’s joy, express delight in all creation and make us generous stewards of all that God calls good. May the light of our Christ lift us out of the dramatic sagas of our little lives to the ten thousand feet above the ground always and everywhere perspective of the Word of God.  Merry Christmas.  

If you were engaged by this reflection please share it by clicking on the icons below.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Gospel text for Sunday 22 December 2013

Matthew 1:18-25        Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet
"Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,"
which means, "God is with us." When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
Reflection             Joseph had two pair of glasses. When he looked at the world  and his situation through one pair of glasses he confronted the complex structure of social custom and law. Through this lens Joseph saw Mary, the woman to whom he was betrothed and with whom he had not had sexual relations as pregnant, in breach of their personal and social contract. Whether she had been raped or had consented to sex with another man, Joseph was not the father of Mary’s child and Joseph was justified by law and custom to divorce Mary which would incite shame and shuning for Mary and her family.  Let’s call these the glasses of justification. Joseph was wearing this pair of glasses when he decided to quietly dismiss Mary, then turned in for the night and went to sleep.
Joseph must have changed his glasses as he fell asleep that night because he had a dream in which he recognized that there was another lens through which to look at his situation. It was the spiritual lens, the lens that enabled him to recognize God present in his dream, and “know” in a deep, personal and unequivocal way “God is with us, (with me)” Emmanuel. Through his second pair of glasses Joseph saw beyond the personal, social and legal perspectives of his situation to the spiritual. The ill-bred child in Mary’s womb was not a blasphemy or degradation. The child in Mary’s womb was a gift of Divine Presence; it was godly, to be honored and praised.
Then Joseph “awoke from sleep,” which is bible-speak for becoming conscious of the divine perspective and acting on it.  Joseph took Mary to be his wife and followed the instructions he received in his dream.You see, recognizing “God is with us” without changing our behavior to receive Divine Presence and allow it to come to life within us is like dying of thrist while looking at a spring of cool fresh water but refusing to kneel, cup our hands and be refreshed. 
Often I am tempted to action while wearing the glasses of justification; tempted to dismiss a person or situation that has complicated my life and quietly move on. But true life in the Spirit comes  for me when I put on the glasses of the spiritual perspective and allow myself to "see" and be changed by the nuances of Divine Presence, even and perhaps especially in the messy moments of ordinary life.
If you found this post interesting or evocative, please share it with your friends by clicking on the icons below. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Song of Mary, Canticle for Sunday 15 December 2013

The Song of Mary, The Magnificat                                                                                                                    **
Luke 1:46-55
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; *
    for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
    the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him *
    in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm, *
    he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, *
    and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, *
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel, *
    for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers, *
    to Abraham and his children for ever.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
    as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.
Reflection     When you hear the words, Mary, Mother of God, what image comes to mind? For the first part of my life my image of Mary, Mother of God was the tall, slender, blond girl in my Sunday School class wrapped like a holy present in a pale blue sheet. She was the chosen one. I was not. Fortunately I didn’t have to spend too many therapy hours on Mary. After all she made only a cameo appearance once a year on Christmas Eve. I supposed the rest of the year Mary was safely wrapped in tissue paper and stowed away in the church closet. Somehow that image doesn’t quite fit the woman singing The Magnificat.
Who is this Mary chanting a love canticle to God? Who is this Mary singing a subversive  verse for social justice? I believe this is not the twelve year old blond Mary, wrapped in tissue and stored in a closet. This Mary is not fragile or ineffectual, neither is she submissive or impotent. No, this Mary is competent and vulnerable, courageous and fruitful...  without being arrogant, conceited or full of herself. 
When Mary encountered the Angel Gabriel, she didn’t run away, she didn’t become speechless and she didn’t get inflated. When the angel addressed Mary as “Favored one,” and affirmed, “The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1.28) Mary paused and pondered the angel’s words. Her quiet acceptance of the angel’s blessing suggests that Mary had a sense of worthiness.  When the Angel proclaimed that even though she was unmarried Mary would become pregnant and give birth to a son who would receive the throne of King David and his kingdom would reign forever,” Mary was not paralyzed by the paradox. Instead she stood her ground and engaged the angel asking, “How can this be?”(Luke 1.38) When the angel explained that she would give birth to the Son of God,” Mary was both bold and vulnerable saying, “Here I am... let it be with me according to your word.” (Luke 1.38) 
I much prefer the stand up, engage God and let her life be changed Mary to the passive adolescent wrapped in a blue sheet. If it was up to me I would keep hail and hearty Mary front and center as a paragon of how to be in relationship with God, of how to show up in our lives, how to live in the tension of paradox, how to be vulnerable and take risks. That’s what it means to be courageous; to show up, be vulnerable and take the risk with no guarantees.  And that’s what it means to be fully alive, blessed, transformed and fruitful.
** Image of Manal al-Sharif, a seventeen year old activist in Saudi Arabia today
Please share this post with your friends by clicking on the icons below.  

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Hebrew Testament text for 8 December 2013

Isaiah 11:1-10
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder's den.
They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.
On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.
Reflection     Is Isaiah talking about utopia? He speaks of wolves and asps, the poor and meek. If it truly was utopia wouldn’t everyone have everything... and surely there would be no insects and no predators? I don’t believe for a minute that the tale of Jesse has anyting to do with Orwellian utopia. Oddly enough I do believe the tale of Jesse is about the absence of fear. 

I suspect those of you who are careful readers are leaping out of your seats protesting... “What about “the fear of the Lord? His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord?”

Let me be crystal clear, I am not talking about the ‘fear of the Lord,” which may be more aptly interpreted “the knowledge and awe of the Lord.” That kind of fear or awe is a direct and appropriate response to the experience of God’s wisdom, understanding, counsel and might. “Fear of the Lord” is the incomprehensible (hence indescribable) heart pounding, experience of the magnitude of God present.

The kind of fear that is absent in Isaiah’s text is the gut wrenching, breath taking, paralyzing angst and trepidation that stops us in our tracks, prods us to build cement walls around our countries, stockpile weapons inside razon wire fences, put gates on our neighborhoods and alarms on our hearts. The kind of fear that is absent in Isaiah’s tale of Jesse’s offspring is the kind of fear that steals our freedom and forgets who and whose we really are.

You see, when we remember that we are the children of God, the offspring of the Lord God who strikes awe in our hearts and wonder in our minds; when we remember that we are the revelation of God whose will and whose way is held back by no things; then we too can be as innocent as lambs lying with wolves, as curious as toddlers chasing havolina. When we remember that we are descendants of the lineage of Jesse and heirs to the kingdom of God (which, by the way is right here) there is no thing on earth to fear because we live and breath and find our being in the awe and wonder, the wisdom and understanding, the counsel and might and knowledge of Lord God.....present.

Remember the extreme sports marketing movement in the 1970s - bumper stickers, coffee mugs and tee shirts displayed the moniker, “No Fear?” The words called us out.. don’t be lazy, don’t be  paralyzed by the fear of death, don’t be locked into the status quo. I suspect the cranky prophet Isaiah would have worn one of those tee shirts, and Jesus too.

Thanks for sharing this post with your friends by clicking on the icons below. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Gospel text for Sunday 24 November 2013

Luke 23:33-43        When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." And they cast lots to divide his clothing. The people stood by, watching Jesus on the cross; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!" The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!" There was also an inscription over him, "This is the King of the Jews."
One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you impunity
not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." He replied, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
Reflection   Three times we hear the words, “Save yourself” spoken by the leaders, the soldiers and one of the criminals. I hear them as pretentious, scornful and insolent words which ring in stark contrast to the gentle, humble and unpretentious words uttered by Jesus,”Father forgive them,” and the second criminal, “Do you not fear God...?”
And there we have it in a nutshell, the heart of Jesus’ ministry, the dualing threads that are woven throughout the clouded tapestry of God’ people from the beginning to this day. In what do we put our faith? In God the Father who is largesse sufficient to forgive the unforgivable, even the unjust murder of Jesus? Or, are we like the swaggering cock crowing our insolence while serving up gall with impunity? "You can do it... come on!"
By whose will do we live? Personally I quake when I kneel with Jesus in Gethesame and hear his unassuming words, “Not my will but Thy will be done.” The other heart wrenching words that epitomize Jesus’ peaceful and unpretentious manners are his request that God forgive all those responsible for his murder. In a very few words Jesus fulfilled the ministy he came to teach. “But I say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you and pray for those who abuse you... be merciful just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6.27-28, 36) By truly practicing what he preached Jesus conclusively revealed his identity as the son of God the Father, being “merciful as (his) Father is merciful.” 
Which gets me to the really hard part. If I presume to be one of God’ people, dare to call myself a child of God, then I too must be merciful - loving my enemies, doing good to those who hate me. This I know. I cannot do it. I cannot save myself. And so I pray with Jesus; Holy God please hear my prayer. It is my desire to do Your will, but I cannot do it. I do not really love my enemies and I find it really hard to do good for those who hate me. I cannot save myself but you can. Please give me the will and the way to do Your will. Forgive them for me. Love them through me. In the name of Your risen Chirst I pray. Amen.
Thanks for sharing this post by clicking on the icons below!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Luke 21:5-19     When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, Jesus said, "As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down."
They asked him, "Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?" And he said, "Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, `I am he!' and, `The time is near!' Do not go after them.
"When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately." Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.
"But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls."
Reflection    The refrain in Carly Simon’s song “Coming Around Again” speaks to the edge and the depth of our human experience of impermanence. “I know nothing stays the same but if you're willing to play the game it's coming around again. So don't mind if I fall apart. There's more room in a broken heart.” Indeed, “not one stone will be left upon another.” There will be “wars and insurrections,”  not to mention “earthquakes, famines, plagues” and typhoons that kill more than three thousand island people. 
The writer of Luke’s gospel minces no words, we cannot hold onto the things of this world. We cannot “prepare our defense in advance” against the ebb and flow, the jig and jag of all that is created (and that includes natural disasters and even our “parents and brothers, relatives and friends” who will disappoint and betray us). The question that pushes on me is, if nothing that I see stays the same, how then am I to play the game?

Jesus answers the question with unequivocal clarity, “make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.” In other words, put all (not some) all of our trust in Jesus, the risen Christ who is with us and for us. Rather than rely on things that we see, rely on the wisdom and grace of Divine Presence with us. 

It is inevitable that every stone of the temple will fall, which is to say, everything that is seen and has been humanly constructed including, social, political and religious instutions, will break down and cause much upheaval. In stark contrast to all that is seen and  thus impermanent, unseen God is eternal, always and everywhere Present, with and for all of us. 

In this world of ours there is no escaping change and yes even suffering. Still, in the darkest days when all seems lost, the unborn, undying Divine Reality we call God rises to fill the empty room in our broken hearts. 

Thanks for sharing this post with your friends by clicking on the icons below.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Gospel text for Sunday 10 November 2013

Luke 20:27-38       Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus and asked him a question, "Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her."
Jesus said to them, "Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive."
Reflection        Could it be that two thousand years ago Jesus was saying to the Sadduces and whoever else was listening that there would come a time when women would not be considered property to be transferred between the hands of brothers? Could it be that Jesus was looking square into the face of the patriarchy and saying, “Your question about the sexual rights of brothers with regard to their widowed sister-in-law misses the mark? You are blind to the ways of God of the living because God of the living does not rely on humanly contrived institutions to protect humanity. God of the living gives life eternally to all people; women, men, Jews, nonJews, married, unmarried.” Could it be that Jesus was declaring, “God gives life that does not depend on human understanding or human institutions?”
The Sadduces conspired to entrap Jesus. Their motive was the same when they asked Jesus the question about paying taxes to Rome. But Jesus rises to a ten thousand foot above the ground persective. Jesus claims dignity for all people and righteousness in all relationships... right here, right now, on earth among the living. He  makes the point that this really is a matter of choosing life or death.
Jesus exposes the Sadduces‘ debauched protestations (alleging to protect widows) for what they really were, heartless attempts to rule and exert power over others., including Jesus. But Jesus would have none of it.   He cuts to the heart of the matter, “God is God not of the dead but of the living.” The people of God are with God, “for all of them are alive in God” because God wills life,  but the way of the rule mongering Sadduces depends on death. The question is, which will you choose, the way of life or the way of death?
Please share with friends by clicking on the icons below. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Luke 18:9-14
Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, `God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, `God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted."
Reflection      It is interesting that both the Pharisee and the tax collector stood before God and prayed about themselves. But the similarity between them ends there. The Pharisee issued a self-aggrandizing monologue, trumpeting his adherance to a series of laws, essentially grand-standing himself before God. In contrast, the tax collector stood to the side not even daring to lift his eyes to heaven, took responsibility for his blameworthy behavior and asked for God’s mercy. The contrast could not be more distinctive and Jesus’ opinion is crystal clear.
Living a righteous life, which is to say, living a life in relationship with God, self and others, means putting our trust in God rather than in ourselves. The behaviors of the Pharisee and the tax collector shine a spotlight on the gap between being self-righteous and finding righteousness in God. 
Still we may well wonder, what’s wrong with thinking well of ourselves? Is it not important to have a sense of self worth? Of course it is appropriate to love ourselves, indeed it is one of God’s commandments, “Love your neighbors as yourself.” And therein lies the caveat. Remember how the Pharisee began his conversation with God? “I thank you that I am not like other people....” Other people, The Pharisee holds other people in contempt as a way of elevating his own status. The result of his attitude is severing relationships with himself, others and God.
Where the Pharisee lists his virtues and exalts himself the tax collector confesses his imperfect human condition and lays himself bare before God, asking for mercy. Humility is his stance and it is what Jesus applauds. Jesus is telllng a story about two men who are praying and only one of them assumes the proper posture in relationship with God. In the words of C. S. Lewis,  “ Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.” A simple take away from this lession might be, “God is great, we are not.”
If you found this message meaningful please share it with your friends by clicking on the icons below.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Gospel text for Sunday 20 October 2013


Luke 18:1-8        Jesus told his disciples a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, `Grant me justice against my opponent.' For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, `Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'" And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"
Reflection      Jesus’ parable reminds me of when my daughter was a teenager and the master of persistence... “mom, please.... come on mom... pleeeeeeese.......you know you reallly want to let me.” She was relentless in pleading her case until I was worn down. The good news is, her childhood persistence turned into tenacity; once she sets her heart on something that she believes is right or just she will not give up.
I believe that is what Jesus is trying to teach the disciples and us with this parable. Hold onto righteous causes, never stop praying and never give up. Because when we pray we are aligning ourselves in God. When we are aligned in God there is a clear, open channel through which God’s presence and God’s power can flow to bring about justice.... even among people who, like the unjust judge, mutter under their breath, “I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me I will grant her justice...” Yes, God brings about justice even through the unjust.
By linking persistence in prayer with issues of justice Jesus expands the notion of justice from ethics, moral rightness and law to include the spiritual dimension, which is to say, to include God. Justice is more than punishment imposed in response to a proven crime. Justice is more than retaliation, quid pro quo, a life for a life. Justice is more than restorative which provides for a victim to be made whole and for a perpetrator to understand and take responsibility for their offense and be reintegrated in society.
Justice is the will of God that all people have access to dignity, resources and power. This is distributive justice; the reallocation of resources among all peoples. “ This is the justice that Jesus brought to life throughout his minsitry; food for the hungry, healing for the sick, forgiveness for sinners and friendship for the marginalized. The will of God is to dignify, resource and empower all people. Our job is to align our will in God’s and secure justice for all peoples.  The way we do that is by praying ceaselessly and never giving up.
**Salvador Dali  "Geological Justice"
                                      Please share this blog with friends by clicking on icons below

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Gospel text for Sunday 13 October 2013

Luke 17:11-19        On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" When he saw them, he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, "Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well." 
Reflection           Recognizing God’s merciful presence and turning toward God, turning and praising God. How many times each day do I receive a smile from a stranger? a kind word from a coworker? a heart-probing story of someone’s life? an insight that steers my direction? a glimpse of beauty in the sky? on the ground? in the leathered face of an old one? in a breath that animates my life? How many times each day does God reveal God’s self to me? How many times do I recognize Divine Presence, turn around and praise God?
I must confess I spend more time questioning God than turning around and praising God. “Why don’t You do something with the hearts and minds of this country’s stubborn leaders so they stop playing games of winner takes all? Why do You make some people so difficult to love? Why don’t You transform my heart so that I can love as You do? (And let’s not even get into the matter of people suffering.) Oh, yes, would You please inspire me with meaningful words to share with Your people?”
What if I turned around? What if I were to recognize God present in the Joy and Sorrow that swell my heart? in the Clarity that informs my mind? in the Drive that stirs my spirit? in the Courage that fortifies my will? in the Awe that stuns and bewilders my soul? What if I were to recognize God present in every one of the 23,040 breaths I am given to breathe this day? What if I turned around and praised God for every breath and all that I experience? 

All day, every day, God’s grace and mercy pour through creation; kissing our wounds, enlivening our bodies, igniting our desires, illumining our minds and strengthening our will. I believe St. Teresa of Avila (a sixteenth century Spanish mystic) knew this when she asked, “How long will grown men and women in this world keep drawing in their coloring books an image of God that makes them sad?” Surely St. Teresa took St. Paul’s instruction to the Thessalonians to heart, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess 5:16-18) Recognize God present, turn around, praise God, for you have been made well in all circumstances.

Please share this post by clicking on the icons below.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Gospel text for Sunday 6 October 2013

Luke 17:5-10        The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" The Lord replied, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, `Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you.
"Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, `Come here at once and take your place at the table'? Would you not rather say to him, `Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink'? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, `We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'"
Reflection             Oh dear. What is Jesus doing? First he tells me if I have even a smidge of faith I can move mountains, or at least mulberry trees. Me, a Christian, free and empowered. Then in his next breathe he tells me I am a slave, not only a slave, a worhtless slave. Me, a Christian, under command and dutiful. I wonder if these contradictory statements were the scriptures that inspired Martin Luther’s impassioned writings about the relationship of faith and works?
In Luther’s view, it is all about our interior state. External acts, no matter what they are (fasting, worship, performing sacred duties, doing secular acts of righteousness), will gain us nothing in God’s economy. There is only one thing necessary for Christian life and that is faith, faith in the word of God.  Moses preached this to the Israelites before they entered the promised land. “Man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deut 8.3) Centuries later Jesus repeated Moses’ words which became the cornerstone of Luther’s theology. (Matt 4.4)
The Word of God, the gospel preached, sets us free and saves us. The thing is, we cannot receive the gospel good news by any works that we can do. We can only receive the Word of God by faith. In Deuteronomy we hear the law...”Live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.” But like the Israelites, we are unable to follow the letter of the law. When Jesus re-speaks these words he gives them to us not as law, but as good news, the gospel. What we are not able to do by works we are given by faith... even faith “the size of a mustard seed!” We are set free from the bondage of the law, free to be in obedient relationship with God.
Which brings us to the part about being slaves. Slaves know they have a master and align their will with the will of their master. This is the appropriate relationship between humanity and God. By faith we honor God, trust God and consent to be obedient to the will of God. In other words, we are God’s slaves. As slaves we are to do God’s work, good works for the benefit of others. Good works will never earn us God’s favor. Rather good works are the response, or natural outflowing from God’s favor much as good fruit are born from a good tree.
If you found this reflection to be meaningful please share it by clicking on the icons below. Thanks!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Gospel text for Sunday 29 September 2013

Luke 16:19-31        Jesus said, "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, `Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.' But Abraham said, `Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.' He said, `Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father's house-- for I have five brothers-- that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.' Abraham replied, `They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.' He said, `No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' He said to him, `If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"
Reflection       Can you hear Abraham calling to the rich man, “ You spent your life and put your faith in sumptuous feasts and fine apparel. You flaunted your privilege and stepped over a man starving at your door. You never even looked at him. You are a Jew, a religious man, you knew better. You knew the words of the prophets, and you did not listen.  But when things got really bad you did not hesitate to call me your father... Abraham. How dare you presume to be favored in God’s family. On the balance sheet of life you chose death because you did not “take hold of the eternal life....a life that really is life.” You did not listen to the prophets. You did not listen to the word of God.”
Before I go on I must say this, I do not believe Jesus’ parable is about what happens after we are dead. I believe Jesus is telling us what is important right now, while we are alive. In this parable even though we may be rich we don’t identify with the unnamed man in purple because he is dead. He made his choices and on the balance sheet of life he came up short. Neither do we identify with Lazarus, though surely each one of us has our share of suffering. Still, we are neither destitute nor are we dead. I believe in this story we are the five brothers. And, if we would listen we might be convinced to “take hold of the eternal life, the life that really is life.” 
Like the five brothers, we have Moses and the prophets. We also have a voice from heaven instructing us...listen to Jesus, the prophet of prophets. You recall the dramatic mountaintop moment earlier in Luke’s gospel when “a voice came out of the cloud saying (to Jesus’ disciples), “This in my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”” (Luke 9.35) Listen to him. 
Are you getting the message? We are supposed to listen. So, what is Jesus saying? Jesus spends much time in Luke’s gospel talking about possessions and money. I do not believe he is saying money or possesions are evil. They are neutral. Rather, evil is when we allow money or possessions to own us and make us blind to the needs and rights of others. Evil is when the power, privilege and pride associated with money and possessions begins to possess us and prevent us from being the living revelation of God’s preferential care for the poor and the suffering.
The bottom line; if we call Abraham our father and claim to be God’s people we need to listen.
We need to listen to the prophets and adjust our lives to bridge the ever widening gap between the rich and the poor. We need to step out of our well meaning and comfortable ruts and adjust the balance sheets of our lives. We need to ask ourselves how will we give a little more of our selves away for the benefit of strangers today? This is the way to be truly rich; to “take hold of the eternal life, life that really is life.” This is the way to be God’s people. 
If you found this post to be meaningful please share it by clicking on the icons below. Thanks.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Gospel text for Sunday 22 September 2013

Luke 16:1-13
Jesus said to the disciples, "There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, `What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.' Then the manager said to himself, `What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.' So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he asked the first, `How much do you owe my master?' He answered, `A hundred jugs of olive oil.' He said to him, `Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.' Then he asked another, `And how much do you owe?' He replied, `A hundred containers of wheat.' He said to him, `Take your bill and make it eighty.' And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.
"Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."
Reflection    Some say this is Jesus’ ‘hardest’ parable, by which I presume they mean, the most inscrutable. Most agree if you focus on the first part, the manager appears to be the hero but if you consider the entire text he seems more the villian. Good or bad, black or white, here we go again, locked into dualistic thinking. But is this the mind of Jesus? I don’t think so.
The thing about Jesus is he confounded the people of his time and continues to confound us because we are captives of our judgments, our dual thinking minds. Jesus refuses to allow us the simplicity of tying things up in neat little packages of right or wrong, good or evil. Jesus’ point of view, which we may well call the Mind of Christ, understands that we cannot grasp the infinite from our limited rational perspectives. So Jesus tells us stories that muddle our minds.... and that is a good place from which to start. We must admit, we do not ‘get it.’
Our habit of dual thinking is based on judgment, this is black or this is white, this is up or this is down. Nondual thinking, or the mind of Christ, understands that life explodes in countless shades of grey and that up or down makes no sense once we leave the tiny sphere of earth’s gravity and enter infinite space. Stretched beyond our small self perspective we realize that truth is a matter of perspective and no one person can be the judge of that. 
I believe Luke included this disjointed and incomprehensible series of statements at precisely this point in Jesus’ story intending to confound any of us who think we can grasp and package the mystery that is Jesus the Christ and the hidden wisdom of God’s kingdom. Our starting, middle and ending place needs to be, “I don’t know. It is not possible for me to grasp the unborn, undying, eternally present Presence.” That’s it; it is not all about me and what I do or do not like or judge to be so!
This means I set aside my desire to be right, to know, to be in control. This means I admit there are things I do not know. Recently a friend described his encounter with it this way. A wise teacher once asked him, ‘What percentage of all that is known about the world and the universe do you know?’” He responded, ‘Three percent.’ The teacher replied, ‘I believe that is generous, but I will give it to you. Now, in what will you find your life, the three percent you know or the ninety-seven percent you do not know?’ My friend gulped. He spent the next thrity odd years discovering the freedom of not knowing and not having to be right. 
What about the manager in Jesus’ story? I suspect he was a little bit hero and a little bit villian, a smathering of good and a dollop of evil and a whole lot more than I will ever know. Finally I can set this text aside and stop prodding myself to figure it out and tell you the truth about it. I don’t know.
Did you enjoy this post? Please share it by clicking on the icons below. 

PS you can watch an amazing video of zero gravity at http://vimeo.com/29017795

Monday, September 9, 2013

Gospel text for Sunday 8 September 2013

Luke 14:25-33     Now large crowds were traveling with Jesus; and he turned and said to them, "Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, `This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions."
Reflection     If I want to stop dancing around the edges of the “large crowds traveling with Jesus” and actually come to him, get close to him and be his disciple, it is not going to be easy. Jesus does not mince words. I imagine if he was speaking today he might say, “If you want to come with me and live the way of peace in the midst of anything and everything but peace, it is like climbing a fourteen thousand foot mountain carrying a hundred pound backpack. Or, it is like trying to feed the 870 million people in the world who do not have enough to eat with one boatload of rice.” 
The way of picking up the cross is not the way of burying our heads in the sand. (Did you know the only animal that buries its head in the sand is humans... not ostriches, emus or pink flamingos)? The way of coming to Jesus asks us to do the impossible, to step up and step out into the hardest places where his peace is most needed because if not we, then who?
Think about it. Estimate the cost. Do you have what it takes to stand on Jesus’ shoulders? to swim against the tide? Are you prepared to be misrepresented? misunderstood? ridiculed? excluded? Jesus counsels. Consider the cost of coming to me. It is everything, You will have to “give up all of your possessions.”He is not talking about books or real estate. Jesus is talking about getting rid of anything that prevents us from cooperating with his mission for peace in the midst of anything but. 
One of my favotite philosophers, Jimi Hendrix, put it this way, “When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.” The question before us is, are we satisfied dancing around the edges of the “large crowds traveling with Jesus” or  are we ready to step up and step out to advance Jesus’ mission for peace?

Please consider sharing this post by clicking on the icons below. Thanks.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Gospel text for Sunday 8 September 2013

Luke 14:25-33     Now large crowds were traveling with Jesus; and he turned and said to them, "Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, `This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions."
Reflection    How could Jesus who was all about healing and dinner parties and searching for every lost sheep and even the smallest coin; how could Jesus who went to great lengths to tell the story about the prodigal father who spared no expense to welcome home his profligate son who had squandered ever bit of his inheritance; how could Jesus instruct the crowds and us to get rid of all our possessions if we want to be his disciples?
Thank goodness for my seventh grade English teacher who introduced me to that extravagant figure of speech, the hyperbole. Without it to amplify my understanding of Jesus’ words to the crowds of follk that were traveling with him I would be bereft. If I want to become Jesus’ disciple I must “give up all (my) possessions,” including all of my relationships and even my own life! Really! Jesus’ use of exaggeration works with me. It evokes a strong response. There are things and people in my life that I don’t want to give up. And frankly, I prefer not to die today. But as soon as I get over reacting I remember, Jesus’ point is to get me to dig a bit deeper. 
What is Jesus actually telling me to get rid of? What does he mean by possessions? I apologize for being a bit nurdy and going back to my Greek translation of the text. Another perspective from the Greek reads, “Therefore everyone of you who does not take leave of all that he himself possesses is not able to be my disciple.” Notice the slight of hand? Rather than speaking of possessions as a noun, an object or asset that we own I believe Jesus was speaking of possessing as a verb, how we relate or hold onto relationships and all things in our lives. I believe Jesus is telling us, possessing is not the way to relate with people and things in our world.  
We are not to treat people and things (even our own life) as objects to grab, seize, dominate, control or hold onto. That is not the way of being Jesus’ disciple. Rather, the way of being Jesus’ disciple is with an unclenched fist and open heart. Being willing to let go of all ideas of ownership, control, dominion or entitlement can be a bit like dying, dying to our sense of the way things are or ought to be. That is the cost of becoming Jesus’ disciple.
Jesus invites us to become, which is to say, to be reformed, transformed, and reborn in relationship with him. What the master transmits to the disciple is not possessed. It is born. I wonder if that is what Jesus meant when he said to Nicodemus, “‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit...?” (John 3.5-6)
If you connect with this post please share it by clicking on the icons below. Thanks.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Text of the Hebrew Testament for Sunday 2 September 2013

Jeremiah 2:4-13     Hear the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel.                   Thus says the LORD:
What wrong did your ancestors find in me
that they went far from me,
and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves?
They did not say, "Where is the LORD
who brought us up from the land of Egypt,
who led us in the wilderness,
in a land of deserts and pits,
in a land of drought and deep darkness,
in a land that no one passes through,
where no one lives?"
I brought you into a plentiful land
to eat its fruits and its good things.
But when you entered you defiled my land,
and made my heritage an abomination.
The priests did not say, "Where is the LORD?"
Those who handle the law did not know me;
the rulers transgressed against me;
the prophets prophesied by Baal,
and went after things that do not profit.
Therefore once more I accuse you, says the LORD,
and I accuse your children's children.
Cross to the coasts of Cyprus and look,
send to Kedar and examine with care;
see if there has ever been such a thing.
Has a nation changed its gods,
even though they are no gods?
But my people have changed their glory
for something that does not profit.
Be appalled, O heavens, at this,
be shocked, be utterly desolate,
says the LORD,
for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living water,
and dug out cisterns for themselves,
cracked cisterns
that can hold no water.

Reflection     “Where is the Lord?”  “Where is God in all of this?” I don’t know about you, but sometimes it is hard for me to find God in the world in which I live. Where is God in the kerfuffle I had with my daughter? In the suicide of my friend’s younger brother? Where is God in Egypt and Israel, Palestine and Syria and the whole Middle East for that matter? Where is God in tsunamies, and tornadoes and rising sea levels? Where is God in wars waged with paper and politics and IEDs? Where is God for the homeless, the hungry and the just barely hanging on? All of that reminds me of the story of our ancestor Job.
You may recall Job was a good and righteous man. God said so and the devil agreed. Still a series of underserved events left the successful land and live-stock owner, admired employer of many, benevolent father of ten children and beloved husband sitting in a trash dump, his businesses lost, his employees scattered, his wife and children dead, and his body wracked with disease. Still, Job never stopped calling out to God. “Where is the Lord? Where are you God? Talk to me. Where is the Lord?”
This, I believe, is the kind of faithfulness God desires from us. The word of the Lord as spoken through the prophet Jeremiah wants to take us by the shoulders and shake us. “Don’t you see, the Lord is with you in your times of trial and success? The Lord is with you in your enslavement and as you break away from situations in which you are not free. The Lord is with you when you take risks, when you are lost, when you suffer, when you are healed. The Lord is with you when everyone else is gone. Therefore you must never stop calling out to the Lord. Where is the Lord? Where is God in all of this?”
For the Jesuits, a religous order of the Roman Church, a central spiritual practice is “Finding God in all things.” It is the lived recognition that nothing can seperate us from the presence of God, the love of God, nothing. To speak of finding God in all things is to understand that God is not distant and ‘other,’ rather God is intimately present with and for us no matter what. We are the objects of God’s love. It is the work of our lifetime to smash our litttle clay gods, the ideas, ideals and ideologies that prevent us from finding God in all things, and open the way of our hearts to experience the awesome mystery that is God present. One way to do this is pause at the end of each day, review the course of events asking, "Where did I notice God present? Where did I not?" Then pray for the grace to see more clearly tomorrow the presence and action of God in your life.  
                                                                                                                                                                                                                         If you found this reflection engaging, please share it by clicking on Facebook, twitter or google+ below. Thank you.