Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Luke 2:1-14       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!”
Reflection        There is something profoundly different between receiving your run of the mill Christmas present (even if it happens to be gold, frankincense and myrhh) and receiving an infant. The former gifts we receive, pull off the bow, tear the wrapping (or if you are my Godmother, she can remove the wrapping paper without issuing a scar or a crinkle). Whatever our style, we unwrap the gift, recognize what is inside, take it and possess it. It does not  work quite that way with an infant.
Parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends extend their empty hands to receive an infant having absolutely no idea what is inside. Whether it takes a week or a lifetime all the people who received the infant eventually figure out, they cannot possess this child. All they can do is commit to being in relationship with the child, to loving the child and experiencing the child as her or his true being is gradually revealed. 
I believe there is no better metaphor for the gradual unfolding of the revelation of God with us. We come to know incarnate God in our lived experience, in our committed relationship with God and one another. Gradually we come to know God in moments of delight and dollups of despair, in glimpses of peace, joy and love and pockets of fear, anger and lonliness. The spiritual reality is this, every moment of our lives is full of God with us. The thing is, most of the time we are too distracted to notice.
When we pause and savor each moment (regardless of whether we judge the moment as favorable or not) it is like receiving an infant into our empty hands and open hearts; we experience the true gift of Christmas. And if, ever so carefully we listen, we can almost hear the angels saying, “"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.” 
                                                 Merry Christmas!

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Gospel text for 4th Sunday in Advent, 21 December 2015

Luke 1:26-38        In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God." Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.
Reflection       “For nothing will be imposssible with God.” I believe the most important word in this sentence is “with.” With God. I know from time to time I “hear” this sentence as, “Nothing will be impossible FOR God.” In so doing I neatly cut myself out of the equation. Shirk any personal responsibility. It (whatever “it” is) is up to God. I play no part in “it.” But that is not what the writer of Luke’s text wrote. 
In concert with, in dwelling with, imbued with, sitting with, endowed with, acquainted with, impregnated with, this mere preposition makes all the difference because it locates us in relationshiip “with” God. “With” may also be a statement that characterizes humanity; for people with God all things are possible. I believe it is to all of the above that Mary consented when she proclaimed, “Here I am… let it be with me according to your word.” 
And there “it” is again. What is “it?” It is a simple pronoun referring to a non-gender specific person or concept previously mentioned, about to be mentioned or present in the immediate context.* With her few words in response to the Angel of God Mary consents to every manner of being in relationship with God; Mary claims her relationship by God and with God and in God from before beginningless time, eternally in the present moment. 
Oh how I long to do the same. To put down my fears and unequivocally proclaim, “Here I am God… Let it be with me according to your word.” And I gulp knowing that giving myself unequivocally to God is giving myself over to the cloud of unknowing yet,  it is giving myself to a grandeur so incomprehensible it can only be called God. 
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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Gospel text for 2nd Advent - Sunday, 7 December 2014

Mark 1:1-8
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,  "See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: `Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'"
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Reflection    What does this have to say to us, many of whom were baptized as infants? Isn’t baptism a done deal? Not according to John. “This is the beginnning of the good news, ” news that always we begin again. There is no shortage of opportunities for each of us to pause, listen to the words of the prophet, examine our lives for vestigages of sin asking; To what am I clinging for my safety and security? How do I use alcohol, drugs, food, shopping, sex, work, video games, people or the internet for comfort or esteem? What means do I employ to acquire and exert power and control? What if I found my safety, security, affection, esteem, power and control in relationship with God instead?
Now let me be crystal clear. I am not suggesting that the things of earth or creation are evil. That would be a heresy.  It is our attachment to things as sources of that which is of God that is sin. Just another way of saying, we have a tendency to turn things into idols - golden calves, golden parachutes.  When we decide to repent, to change our minds, to let go of our idols, our habits, attachments and addictions, we are ready for something new. This is how we prepare the way for the one who is and is to come. This is our work for the Advent season; preparing the way for the Christ to be born again in each of us. 

Surely preparing the way for something new is as natural as new families making countless trips to Babies R Us as they prepare for the coming of a child ? Aunties buy cribs and friends cuddly blankets. Parents search the web for advice, install baby monitors and socket guards. With nothing but the best of intentions boatloads of things are gathered to welcome the child into a world of safety, security, affection, esteem, power and control. This is as it should be - and - immediately the writer of Mark’s gospel invites us to put that child in God’s hands, drenched in the water of baptism to die to a life constrained by things and rise into a life of safety, security, affection, esteem, power and control born in the hands of God. We prepare the way to give our children away to God in baptism.

At the other end of the spectrum linger those of us in later seasons of life faced with the burden of scores of physical stuff, habitual stuff,  stuff we no longer have the energy to sustain. Mountains of possessions possess us. Decades of habitual behaviors and reactions stand between us and freedom like barbed wire prision walls. Are we not like the people of the Judean countryside and Jerusalem compelled by a sense of desperation and desire for something more than old stuff and the empty promises of city, state, empire? How many of us long to walk into the wilderness, throw all the things that possess us into the Jordan river, watch them sink to the watery depths and experience the lightness of being born anew in the hands of God? “This is the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God….” Do you dare to prepare the way of the Lord?   

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Gospel text for Sunday 30 November 2014

Mark 13:24-37        Jesus said to his disciples, "In those days, after that suffering,the sun will be darkened,and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven,and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see `the Son of Man coming in clouds' with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
"From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
"But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake-- for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”
Reflection      To wait and watch and work, that is the way of God’s kingdom, already not yet. The kingdom of God is here, now present in every moment. The thing is it is a radical perspective that turns our ideas about heaven and earth unside down and inside out…. stars falling, heavens shaking. 
What we are waiting for is already here but we do not see, so Jesus instructs us, “Keep alert. Keep awake.”  But what does that mean? Open the eyes of our hearts, the place from which we “see” with unconditioned consciousness. WIth the eyes of our hearts we “see” the impermanance of all created things (yes, even stars like our sun fall). As Jesus says, “The sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light…” THEN we will “see” the Son of Man, God with us. We must see beyond the impermanant things to perceive the unborn, undying eternal Presence of God with us. 
For as long as our eyes are afixed to the conditions of life; the turning of seasons, the rise and fall of fortune, the ebb and flow of suffering, our vision is obscured. But, our unconditioned consciousness cuts to the core like a knife piercing flesh or a lightening bolt penetrating the earth. Our unconditioned consciousness is the unborn, undying participation in Divine Presence that resides at the depth of our own being. It is the state of our being within which our waiting and watching and working converge. In us, with us and of us, God’s kingdom is come, already not yet. Keep awake! 

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Gospel text for Sunday 23 November 2014

Matthew 25:31-46         Jesus said, "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, `Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, `Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' Then he will say to those at his left hand, `You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, `Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' Then he will answer them, `Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Reflection       From the beginning Matthew’s gospel proclaims, God is with us, among us. Which begs the question, “How do we experience God with us?” Jesus minces no words in his parable. We experience God with us when we recognize our neighbors need and respond. 
Two things are required to experience God, recognition and response. We recognize hunger and we feed, we recognize thirst and we give drink, we recognize the stranger and welcome them, we recognize the naked and give them clothes, we recognize the sick and give them comfort, we recognize the imprisioned and give them companionship. As we offer blessing to our neighbors in need we experience God’s blessing, God with us. 
Here is the twist. We need the people who need us more than they need us. We need the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the imprisioned because without them we do not have the opportunity to recognize their need and respond with blessing. Without people who need us we miss our opportunity to be counted among the God's sheep. Without the opportunity to serve the least among us we miss out on God’s blessing, we lose our place in the kingdom of God, we do not experience God with us. 
It is interesting, nowhere in Jesus’ teaching do we hear, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you…” for you crossed all your tees, dotted all your eyes, followed all the rules. Nowhere do we hear Jesus say, Blessed are you who are wildly successful, have prepared a royal festival, rich with gold and incense and elaborate prayers to welcome kings and priests and holy people. Instead we hear, blessed are you who are moved to extend God’s Spirit of compassion to those in need. For in tending to your relationship with those in need you are indeed tending to your relationship with God.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Gospel text for Sunday 16 November 2014

Matthew 25:14-30        Jesus said, "For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, `Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.' His master said to him, `Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, `Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.' His master said to him, `Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, `Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.' But his master replied, `You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' “
Reflection       The slave who received five talents, went off, invested all of them and received five more. What an enormous leap of faith. What if he lost the five talents?  What would his master do to him? Still, he risked everything, acted in faith and put all that he was given to work for his Master. And the Master was pleased. By contrast, the slave who received one talent was afraid, by clinging to the little he had he ended up with nothing. There it is, the bottom line. fear is the opposite of faith. Fear contracts, cuts us off from joy, from God’s kingdom on earth. Fear clearly is not the response desired by the master. (God)
Living as we do in God’s economy, like the slaves we are stewards of all that is given to us and we are expected to respond to God’s generosity with faith, not fear. As God’s stewards we are invited to take the risk and deepen our faith by  giving more than is comfortable in faithful response to God’s generosity. Whether it is a little or a lot, every penny that we have is gift. And so we turn to God and pray, “Lord, how are you inviting me to respond to your generosity in my life?” 
The slave in Matthew’s parable who invested everything he was given ended up with more than twice as much as he started. This is the economy of gift. This is the economy of the Church. This is God’s economy. It’s bottom line is not balance sheets and budgets. The mechanism of exchange is not quid pro quo, it is faith. Our faith is that God who has given us the capacity to live and breathe and experience our being will continue to gift us with all that we have, all that we are, and all that we need. So let's leap - in faith. 

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Saturday, November 8, 2014

Gospel text for Sunday 9 November 2014


Matthew 25:1-13      Jesus said, "Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, `Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, `Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise replied, `No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.' And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, `Lord, lord, open to us.' But he replied, `Truly I tell you, I do not know you.' Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

Reflection     I believe we have been lured into settling for way to little. We are not ‘only human.’ We are creatures made in the image of God intended to reveal God’s presence on earth. In Jesus’ parable about the kingdom of heaven, all of us are the bridesmaids. Being created in the image of God we are intended to be in loving relationship with God, the bridegroom. The question is, do we desire and expect to experience God with us? Are we wise or foolish bridesmaids?

The minds of the foolish bridesmaids were dark. Their lack of oil for their lamps represents their lack of awareness that God is with them even when they cannot see or experience God present. In other words, the foolish bridesmaids failed to develop their spiritual awareness or interior light. Consequently they were living in a state of interior darkness or lack of awareness that God, the bridegroom, is with them from the beginning and for all time.

By contrast, the minds of the wise bridesmaids are illumined, like lamps with ample oil. They have done the work to develop their consciousness. They desire and expect to experience the bridegroom, God with them. Consequently, they experience interior light, which is to say, even when they cannot see or viscereally experience God’s presence they know God is with them from the beginning for all time. As such they live in the kingdom of heaven on earth.

What is the kingdom of heaven? The kingdom of heaven is hiding in plain sight. It is not something outside ourselves that we can find or purchase. It is not delayed payment for a life of obedience. The kingdom of heaven is the light that shines from the center of each one of us. As we turn around and direct our attention inward the light of our self awareness and our God awareness grow. The apostle Paul described it this way,  “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” Gal 2.20) The bridegroom comes and takes us into the wedding banquet. This is the mystical union or marriage; the realization that our interior light, the essence of our true self, is not other than God’s light. We experience the light of new relationship with God given by Jesus to all of us who choose to believe. 

** Alexander Grey image  Praying
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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Gospel text for Sunday 2 November 2014

Matthew 5:1-12       When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
"Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Reflection       Jesus begins his first sermon with “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” It has taken me years to arrive at what I believe Jesus means when he refers to the poor in spirit. I believe the poor in spirit are those of us who know that we are in need of blessing. Who among us does not need blessing? Yet, who among us wants to leap up, wave our arms and shout, “Here is am, poor in spirit?” Frankly, I have never heard anyone say those words, including myself. However, there are other ways to say it.

A week ago Saturday at Riverfront park during our Community Blessing of the Animals I heard teenages say, “We need blessing”  Please picture this. A bevy of apostles with sunglasses, visors, a wheelchair, floppy hats milling about with Joshua the donkey and Hooligan the horse weaving in and out among unsuspecting neighbors enjoying a Saturday morning stroll, some with and some without four legged friends. Also in this picture are three collared clerics hawking  blessings, waving wands of rosemary and sprinkling water on anything that moved. The extra holy water and bowls were home on a picnic table under the Bighorn Ramada. All the while an interesting thing was happening at the next door table. During the course of an hour a bevy of ten or twelve high school students gradually collected; watching and listening from a near distance. We could almost touch their curiosity.

When I asked them if it would be alright if Deacon Jon blessed them, their assent was immediate and unanimous, “Ah yes, we need blessings. He needs lots of them.  She does. So does he. I sure do….” a delightful repartee.  Every single one of them bowed their head to receive their blessing. A few even moved around for seconds.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” for they know that they need blessing. 

What is the take away from that experience? We are people of blessing and it is time for us to get our of our church building and deliver blessings to all the people. Who among us does not need blessing? And, who among us is not called to live in imitation of Jesus, seeing with the eyes of our hearts and being purveryors of blessing for all of humanity?

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Matthew 22:34-46       When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" He said to him, "`You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: `You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: "What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?" They said to him, "The son of David." He said to them, "How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,  `The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”' If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?" No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.
Reflection   Let me just say this, “I do not know how to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul and mind, and, I don’t know how to love my neighbor as myself.” Furthermore, I am not even sure how to know if I Iove God… how can I be sure? The good news is some nine hundred years ago St. Bernard of Clairveaux wrestled with the same questions.
In his treatise “On Loving God” Bernard advises that love is one of four basic instincts; love, joy, fear and sorrow, with love being primary. These instincts compel our action and are intended to move us toward God. An important way we individuals are drawn toward God is in our shared experience of humanity with our neighbors… our neighbor is as our self which leads us to the part about loving our neighbor as ourself. Bernard would argue that when there is conflict between our preferences and the needs of our neighbor, we are called to provide first for our neighbor… “love your neighbor as yourself.” 
By the very act of loving our neighbor we are loving ourselves and in so doing we experience God’s love kindled within us which is actually the original instinct for love that gives us the capacity to love and care for our neighbors and ourselves. This revolution of love is an effusion of affection, respect and care that bands together what once appeared to be separate. Loving the many is loving the One. Loving the One is loving the many.
The original spark or instinct to love is seeded in our heart and our soul and our mind by God’s love of us, each one and all of us. This is love intended to return to its source through the agency of loving one another.  The only way I can be sure I am loving God with all my heart, soul and mind is when I am putting the needs of my neighbor ahead of my preferences. Help me Jesus!  Please show me the way to help my neighbors in South Sudan. (Please double click on the image in upper right corner to learn more)
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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Gospel text for Sunday 19 October 2014

Matthew 22:15-22       The Pharisees went and plotted to entrap Jesus in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?" But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, "Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax." And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, "Whose head is this, and whose title?" They answered, "The emperor's." Then he said to them, "Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's." When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.
Reflection       We live in a world with two economies, the world’s economy of exchange and God’s economy of gift.  In the economy of exchange we work for money that we trade for things we prefer not to work for; we exchange money for roads we do not build or maintain, money for food someone else grew, caught or butchered. The exchange economy is  real,  it is important, and it is not God’s economy. It is not the economy of the Church.
God’s economy, the Church’s economy, is a gift economy. In the gift economy we understand that all that we have is gift, which includes the skills, talents, intellect and physical capacity to trade our work for money in the exchange economy. All that we have and all that we are is gift, unearned, undeserved gift. As we wrap our minds and hearts around the biggness of our gifts we begin to see that in every area of our lives, including our money, we are stewards, stewards of the gifts given to us by God. 
This makes me think of Matthew’s parable of the vineyard owner who paid everyone a full day’s wage, even those workers who did not show up until 5pm. You may recall what happened. Those who had labored a full day grumbled when those who had labored not at all received the same full days wage. The grumblers were living according to the world’s economy of exchange and the vineyard owner was living in accord with God’s ecomomy of gift; he replied, “Are you envious because I am generous?” (Matt 20.15)
How are we to respond to such unspeakable generosity? By being envious that some receive more? Or, by being grateful for the life and the breathe and the being we are given in God’s economy? Do we live as if it is all about the economy of exchange and cling to everything we have? Or do we live by faith in God’s economy, freely giving back to God all that we are given? I believe the question Matthew’s gospel invites each of us to ask is this; “Lord, how are you inviting me to respond to your generosity in my life?” 

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Gospel text for Sunday 12 October 2014

Matthew 22:1-14        Once more Jesus spoke to the people in parables, saying: "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, `Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.' But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, `The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.' Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
"But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, `Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, `Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' For many are called, but few are chosen."
Reflection    “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet  for his son.” I must confess, the first thing I think of when I imagine attending a wedding is, “What am I going to wear?” Must everything match? is bling OK? What about shorts and flip flops? “

Frankly, I don’t believe Christ, King of the Banquet, cares. Violating the dress code was not the issue when the king confronted the wedding guest, “ How did you get in here without wearing a wedding robe?” Remember, the parable is about the “kingdom of heaven,” so the question is, what do we need to wear to enjoy our place at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven? 

Writing to the Colossians Paul elaborates, “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  (Col 3:12-17 ) Which is to say, “…clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. “(Eph 4.24-32)
Just showing up at the banquet, at church on Sunday, is not enough. Something is required of us. It is about the way we show up, the way we live our lives. Do we wear the robes of righteousness, which is biblespeak for asking, do we allow God’s Spirit to be revealed in the way we live our lives?  Are we revelations of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity, faithfulness and self-control? Do we clothe ourselves in righteousness?
Or do we do what Matthew suggests at the end of this parable, cast out the people who are different from us, who don’t believe the way we do; “Bind (them) hand and foot, and throw (them) into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth?” 
In the year 1513 when Martin Luther came to Matthew’s parable of the wedding banquet he called it “the terrible gospel on which I hate to preach.” Indeed, it is hard to swallow. Matthew was a Jew preaching to Jews, not all of whom believed that Jesus was the Messiah, particularly not the religious officials. Matthew and his community of believers were frustrated and deeply distressed that some of their Jewish family members did not believe as they did and flatly refused their invitation to the wedding banquet. Unfortunately, resorting to violence was Matthew’s response to the religious leaders who did not see what he believed was the truth; Jesus is the Messiah. Disasterously, Matthew’s angry words have been used by Christians to justify the mistreatment of Jews throughout the ensuing centuries. I have to believe this is a case of unintended consequences. 
The question before us today is, what do we do when members of our own family, both biological family and our extended family of humankind, when they do not believe as we do? Do we choose to respond as did Matthew? Or do we remember that everyone is invited to the wedding banquet…”both good and bad?” In the context of this parable I believe we are the servants of God, sent “into the streets (to) gather all whom (we) find, both good and bad, so the wedding hall (will) be filled with guests.”
We are the beloved servants of God which means, we are meant to be the revelation of God’s righteousness, God’s love on earth. We are intended to reveal the good news that the kingdom of heaven is right here, right now.  Far too many people have not experienced Christians  revealing God’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity, faithfulness and self control. It is time for us to go into the main streets, let people see who we really are, wearing the robes of righteousness rather than the armor of religious fanaticism.

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Hebrew Testament text for Sunday 5 October 2014

Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20
Then God spoke all these words: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, and said to Moses, "You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die." Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin."

Reflection      Before he died Moses preached this sermon instructing the people how they should live and worship God. We call it the Ten Commandments, the Law of Moses. The fourth law is, “Remember the Sabbath, and keep it holy.”

Another version of the fourth law is, “Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy… Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work - you or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there … therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath.” (Deut 5.12-15)

This was outrageous; Moses insisting everyone should benefit from the law.  Everyone knew Israelite women, children and slaves had no status and no rights, but under the Law of Moses everyone without exception was equal in the eyes of God and should benefit with a day of rest. This was an enormous step in the evolution of human consciousness. Everyone is equal in the eyes of God and everyone should benefit with a day of rest.

No sooner did they receive Moses’ law than the ancient religious authorities set to work definng what constituted work and therefore what exactly people were not supposed to do on the sabbath. It began with no collecting manna, then no lighting of fires. Eventually regulations became so strict that observant Jews would allow themselves to be killed rather than defend themselves on the sabbath. By the time we get to Christian or New Testament times we find Jesus violating the sabbath regulations by healing a man with a withered hand and allowing his disciples to pluck heads of grain to eat. 

It seems Jesus’ understanding of keeping the sabbath was different than the keepers of Moses’ Law. According to Jesus, “’The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath…” (Mark 2.27) The essence of sabbath is a time set aside to promote our humanity and return to God. We do this by breaking our routine, whatever it is we do six days a week, and doing something else that truly nurtures us. This we each must discover for ourselves. If we sit at a desk working all week, sabbath might include time outside, moving the body, experiencing God in the theatre of creation. On the other hand, if our work is gardening, landscaping, building bridges  or putting roofs on buildings, then our sabbath might be staying home, putting up our feet and resting in God. 

Remember the sabbath day ... means, remember to take your day off, and be sure your employees have one too! And, keep the sabbath day holy means,  througout that day direct your attention to God, let your work be finding God in all things. This is the way of promoting humanity and equal benefit for all. 

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Gospel text for Sunday 28 September 2014

Matthew 21:23-32        When Jesus entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, "By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?" Jesus said to them, "I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?" And they argued with one another, "If we say, `From heaven,' he will say to us, `Why then did you not believe him?' But if we say, `Of human origin,' we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet." So they answered Jesus, "We do not know." And he said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.
"What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, `Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' He answered, `I will not'; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, `I go, sir'; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.”
Reflection     “By what authority are you doing these things?”  It seems like a perfectly reasonable question. except, the authorities had seen Jesus “doing these things,” healing and teaching and exuding enough charisma that crowds of people were following him. The chief priests and the elders were not interested in where Jesus got his authority. They were interested in maintaining their authority and Jesus was breaking their rules and challenging their authority. But Jesus was not game. No way was he going to fall into their trap, so he turned the table on them and used the parable of the two sons to accuse them.
“By the way, don’t you realize that the most dispised people among you, the prostitutes and tax collectors who fail to keep the temple Law of Moses “are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you because when John came crying “Repent,” they believed and changed their ways.  But when John came to you, “you did not change your minds and believe him.”” I can almost hear Jesus shaking his head and mumbling, “Don’t you see. Humanity was not made to serve the law. The law was made to serve humanity. All you have to do is change your mind and believe what John said, “Repent, (which means turn around, change your mind) the kingdom of God has come near.””(Matt 3.2 and writers additions).
Could it really be that simple? Just change your mind? Simple as a beligerent son saying to his father, “No, I am not going “to work in the vineyard today,” then changing his minds and showing up for work? 
That reminds me of the Lovin’ Spoonfuls song, “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?” 
Did you ever have to make up your mind?
You pick up on one and leave the other behind
It's not often easy and not often kind
Did you ever have to make up your mind?
Did you ever have to finally decide?
And say yes to one and let the other one ride
There's so many changes and tears you must hide
Did you ever have to finally decide?
Of course this 60s  song was about a man choosing between two women but, let me suggest it is not too different from John’s call to repent - to finally decide, to say yes, I believe, and leave not believing behind. Do you believe?

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Gospel text for Sunday 21 September 2014

Matthew 20:1-16       esus said, "The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o'clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, `You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o'clock, he did the same. And about five o'clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, `Why are you standing here idle all day?' They said to him, `Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, `You also go into the vineyard.' When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, `Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.' When those hired about five o'clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, `These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.' But he replied to one of them, `Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?' So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Reflection       My fair share. What is my fair share. That was the first thing I wondered when reading this parable. But what about the generous landowner? What about all the people who, much as the landowner, look for opportunities to be generous?
I turned to Charity Navigator to find giving statistics for Americans in 2013.
In 2013 the Americans’ total giving to charitable organizations was $335.17 billion (about 2% of the GDP). Individuals (not corporations) gave 72% of it, roughly $240.6 billion to religious institutions, education, human services, health agencies and charities that focus on the environment or animals. This does not include monies given to assist with natural disasters and tragedies or handed out on the street. Like the landowner in Matthew’s text, Americans are generous.
What does it mean to be a generous individual? According to Wikipedia’s definition, generosity or largess is “a habit of giving without expecting anything in return… Generosity is not solely based on one's economic status, but instead, includes the individual's pure intentions of looking out for society's common good and giving from the heart. Generosity should reflect the individual's passion to help others.”
Sounds great. But how is Christian generosity distingushed from being a good citizen? Sacrifice. The word is sacrifice. It is at the heart of our Christian tradition. Paul counsels the Romans, “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God…” (Ro 12.1) In Luke 18, Jesus challenges a rich young man to sell everything. Mincing no words, Jesus said to his disciples, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt 16.24-25)
These are hard words. Apparently, sacrifice is generosity on steroids. It is more than having good intentions, a loving heart, writing checks and hoping for the good of all people. Sacrifice is muscle on the bones of generosity that compels us to be willing to earn less (as did the land owner) in order to give more to others. Sacrifice is deciding to do less to sure up our personal kingdoms in order to build God’s kingdom on earth right now. Sacrifice is holding nothing back until everybody on the land gets a full days’ wage

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Epistle Holy Cross Day, 14 September, 2014

Philippians 2:5-11
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death--
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Reflection        When Jesus entered Jerusalem he knew he was headed for death. Not just death, tortuous death; excruciating, humiliating death nailed to a cross and lifted high so all could watch him gasp for breath. Jesus knew what was waiting for him and he chose not to wipe Jerusalem’s dust from his heels and walk north to Samaria or Cana. He could have headed for the proverbial hills, gone underground and out of sight and saved himself. Who would blame him?

But Jesus was not listening to the voice of fear shouting, “By all and any means, save yourself. The most important thing is to be safe and secure, to surround yourself with people who care for and esteem you. Be sure to maintain a modicum of power and control.” That was not the voice that he was listening to. Jesus was listening to the deeply interior voice of his Father God.
Jesus’ decision to walk into Jerusalem, to host a farewell supper with his closest friends, and to allow one of them to betray his whereabouts to his persecutors was not a personal decision. Jesus’ decision to allow himself to be handed over to suffer and die on a cross went beyond his desire to take care of his basic needs for safety and security,  affection, attention and esteem. It bypassed his personal need for power and control. Jesus’ decision and action was not personal, it was transpersonal.

Transpersonal experiences have been defined as experiences "in which the sense of identity or self extends beyond the individual or personal to encompass wider aspects of humankind.....”  Jesus was operating from a transpersonal perspective.  And so he chose to stay the course, to remain faithful to truth as he knew it. Jesus chose to stand in his place and claim his birthright as the Son of Man and the Son of God. The officials called this treason. Jesus called it truth. He was willing to  give up his life rather than give up his Truth. 
What does this have to do with us, mere humans, not Jesus? Everything. We are made in the image of God which means “we are free to make choices : to love, to create, to reason, and to live in harmony with creation and with God.” (BCP 845) In other words, we participate with God in bringing about good in creation. That is why we are here.  Remember Jesus words to the disciples“Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these…?” (John 14.12) 
I believe we have set our sights too low. Rather than claim our birthright as daughters and sons in the family of God we have let ourselves off the hook by claiming we are mere humans. What if we stood in our place and claimed our birthright as children of humanity and children of God, would we be moved to give ourselves away to care for and dignify all people? 

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Matthew 18:15-20        Jesus said, "If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them."
Reflection      Borrowing an analogy from one of my favoirte preachers, Barbara Brown Taylor, we are “like pebbles put in a tumbling jar - smoothing out our rough edges by rubbing up against one another.” Can you imagine one unpolished pebble saying to the other pebbles in the jar, “This is just the way I am. I have always had these points and sharp edges. I have always been like this? Just look at my Meyers/Briggs or my MMPI!” Or, “This point is really special to me?” Or, “You just rub me the wrong way?” 
The thing is, in family life, community life, Church life and global life it is is not all about me. It is all about we. That’s what Jesus wants the disciples and us to understand when he says, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” When we come together, work together or worship together, we inevitably rub up against one another. We become as the abrasive grit in the tumbler of life used to smooth the rough edges of gemstones. That is how we grow together, how we become more divinely human and more humanly divine. Like gems hidden in rough unpolished agates the Word of God is secreted within each one of us. The hidden jewel, God’s Word, is love.
For most of us loving our neighbors does not come without a rub, especially if our neighbors do not think, feel, look and behave just the way we do. It is through the rough and tumble of life that we learn to love those, “other people.” Love is cultivated and refined in the give and take of relationships. Anyone who is in a committed relationship or long time friendship knows this. Love means rubbing up against one another. Love is not all about me. Love is about we.
And “Jesus said, “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.”” I believe the operant word in Jesus’ sentence is, “Listen.” In fact, Jesus uses the word “listen” four times in three sentences. It must be important.
Listen. Open the ears of your hearts to your sisters’ and brothers’ points of view. Listen beyond superficial differences; traditional, comtemporary; red, blue; global, local; chocolate, vanilla; listen for the place of our shared humanity wherein we care deeply about our children, families, community, Church and world. Listen beyond our superficial differences; Oriental, Asian, Hispanic or Caucasian; Jewish, Islamist, Buddhist, Atheisit, Hindu, Christian, unaffiliated; listen beneath all that for the place of shared divinity wherein we truly love our neighbor.
Loving our neighbor does not require uniformity of thought nor conformity of behavior. Loving our neighbor means we allow enough spaciousness in our relationship to make room for our differences. Loving our neighbor means the jewel hidden within each person is revealed. Listen.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Hebrew Testament Text for Sunday 31 August 2014

Exodus 3:1-15        Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, "I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up." When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." Then he said, "Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." He said further, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Then the LORD said, "I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt." But Moses said to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" He said, "I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain."
But Moses said to God, "If I come to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" God said to Moses, "I AM Who I AM." He said further, "Thus you shall say to the Israelites, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" God also said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the Israelites, 'The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: This is my name forever and this my title for all generations."
Reflection        Last week we met Jesus asking the disciples and us, “But who do you say that I am?” This week we wander back in history some twelve hundred years and find Moses asking God, “Who shall I tell the Israelite people You, God, are? What is your name?”  God’s answer, “I AM  who I AM,” must have rattled around in Mose’s mind.  “This is not going to be easy!”

Imagine a philosopher pondering on Moses’ behalf, “I AM who I AM; derived from the verb ‘to be’ that must mean, I exist. How can it be enough to say “I exist?”  How can it be sufficient simply to exist without a definable and recognizable image? How can it be enough to claim existance with neither subject nor predicate? It reminds me of Shakespeare’s Prince Hamlet moaning as he ponders suicide, “To be, or not to be…?” To exist or not to exist. That is the question. And God’s answer is, I exist. I AM. 

God chose not to identify God’s self as either subject or predicate, which is to say, God refused to be confined to either object or essence. Rather, God chose to identify God’s self as the linking word, the copola, relationship. God identified God’s self as that which connects, a bridge, I AM.

And God continued, “Moses, Moses, “I will be with you….”” In other words, I, your God, AM in relationship with you, I coexist with you. I Am “the God of your ancestors,  the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,”  I Am joined with or coupled with you and your ancestors. We are intimately linked and have been through time.

Unequivocal as God’s response to Moses may sound, I don’t suppose it much comforted Moses. What are the people going to think when I say,” I AM sent me?” Is that not the question with which we all wrestle? How can I tell the people with whom I work or go to the gym about my God whom I cannot see or touch or frankly find any words sufficient to describe? What shall I say to my children when they ask, “Where is God?”  How shall I defend God when critics query, “If there really is God why do such terrible things as the brutality in the Middle East, ravaging disease in Africa, senseless killing in Misssouri happen?” 

In the course of God’s conversation with Moses God attested, “I have been, I AM, and I will be” in relationship with you. And finally Moses received the answer to his original question, “God, what is your name?” “My name is forever I AM.”  Finding his courage in forever I AM and trusting I AM forever with him, Moses was emboldened to go and confront the king of Egypt, the oppressor of God’s people. Would that we all remember forever I AM and do likewise.

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Gospel text for Sunday 24 August 2014

Matthew 16:13-20        When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Reflection    I believe everything hinges on our response to Jesus’question. “But who do YOU say that I AM?” Who is this Jesus who has caught the imaginations and hearts of people for more than two thousand years? What sets him apart from the great prophets, teachers, kings and priests throughout history and now? What about him has kept the stories of people’s encounters with him alive and engaged for twenty centuries? Why have millions of artists been inspired to render mages, in their own likeness, of Jesus? Why, for two thousand years, have people not tired of studying and writing, wondering and asking, Who is this Jesus?

Please remember. When Jesus asked the question, “But who do YOU say that I AM?” there was no creed, no council of bishops,  no conversation about dual natures, no theology of the Trinity. There wasn’t even a Christian church. There was just Jesus and the people who recognized him and allowed their lives to be changed because of him. So today I set aside the creeds, the great books and all I have been taught ABOUT Jesus and ask myself, who is Jesus in my life? What difference does he make? 

My painfully inadequate response to Jesus’ question is, “Jesus, you are  present, real, surprising, relevant, gift, astonishing, heartening, comforting, challenging, baffeling and disturbing. Jesus, you reveal God’s unspeakable love in the only way I could even begin to apprehend it, in human form, just like me. Jesus, you touch me with Wisdom that speaks in whatever language it takes for me to hear the Good News that God is with and for me and all of humanity, no matter what. Jesus, you give me Hope that I and humanity will not be overcome and separated from God when human conditions breed hatred, mistrust, violence and senseless killing. Jesus, you are my brother, my teacher, my guardian, my companion and my God, calling me to faith and finding me when I get lost. Jesus, you are all things to me in order that I may know...  I am.“ 

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