Saturday, July 22, 2017

Gospel text for Sunday 23 July 2017

2017 07 23 Matthew 13:24-30,36-43         Jesus put before the crowd another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” 

Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!”

Reflection      On this journey we call life there are moments when our true self emerges and we are the seeds of grace and truth in the world. In those moments, like Jesus we engage our life situation exactly as it is. We do not leap ahead into conjectures, “Oh, this does not bode well for the future. I can see the handwriting on the wall.” Nor do we revert to rehearsals of the past, “I have been down this road before, I have met people just like him, I remember the time…  and it was terrible.” Living in imitation of Jesus we are like seeds, full of grace and truth that we bring to every situation we encounter.

How do we know when we are experiencing our true self? We feel peaceful, secure or accepted. When operating out of our true self we have access to wisdom and real power, living becomes effortless, even living in the midst of weeds. By contrast, when we feel stressed, insecure or unvalued, our true self sinks into hiding behind our everyday self that executes our programs for happiness; with our inordinate desire for security, safety, esteem, power and control. The thing is, these programs are never satisfied because they cannot fulfill the deepest desire of our heart, to be our true self, seeds of grace and truth in the world.

Deepak Chopra, an alternative medicine doctor, offers what I think is an instructive list to help us discern if we are operating out of our true self or our everyday self.  “The true self is certain and clear about things. The everyday self gets influenced by countless outside influences, leading to confusion. The true self is stable. The everyday self shifts constantly.  The true self is driven by a deep sense of truth. The everyday self is driven by the ego, the unending demands of "I, me, mine." The true self is at peace. The everyday self is easily agitated and disturbed. The true self is love. The everyday self, lacking love, seeks it from outside sources.”*

Much as a farmer cannot avoid weeds infesting her wheat, we cannot escape the incursion of our conditioned emotional reactions nor the inclination of our everyday self to enforce our programs for happiness. What we can do is cultivate disciplines of stillness such as Centering Prayer or Mindfulness Meditation that help us be clear minded and consistent, recognize when weeds are infiltrating our thoughts, words and actions and enable us to choose to act with grace and truth instead.  

As people of God we are  intended to live in imitation of Jesus,  to be a seeds of grace and truth in our thoughts, words and actions. If we want to strengthen and tone our bodies we must have a discipline of physical training and practice. If we want to strengthen and tone our true self we must have a discipline of spiritual training and practice. 

August 9, 16, 23 and 30th from 2-3:15  Episcopal Church of the Apostles offers a free four week program for beginners and long time practitioners of Centering Prayer using Fr. Carl Arico’s dvd series and discussion, instruction, and a twenty minute sit. Email admin@ovapostles.org for more info. 

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Gospel text for Sunday 16 July 2017

Matthew 13:1-9,18-23        Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”

“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.

Reflection       Who is the sower in this parable? At first glance we might assume it is Jesus, after all he is the one telling the tale  But when we listen carefully to Jesus’ explanation of the parable we notice the Greek word logos, the word of the kingdom, appears four times in four sentences. Surely this word, logos, must be important. It is.

God is the sower, sowing the word, the word that became flesh in the person of Jesus to reveal the will and the way of God to all the world. God is extravagant, sowing the word that is full of grace and truth throughout the world. Just in case you are wondering how broadly God has sown the Word, here is a statistic from The Bible Society of the United Kingdom that reports the number of Bibles printed by 2007 was 7.5 billion, essentially one copy of God's word for each person on earth. That does not take into account all the digital versions we find on our phones. *   

The message is unequivocal.  God is not stingy or exclusionary. God's word is not limited to those who hear the word, understand it and bear good fruit. God’s word is not withheld from us when we hear the word with joy yet as soon as trouble, teasing or ill-treatment arise we withdraw or shy away. Even when we hear God’s word and our desires for security, safety, esteem, power and control choke it out of us like weeds strangling our lives, still the bounteous word is sown.

Here is the twist. God’s word is sown in all flesh. Each one of us is like a seed of God’s word intended to grow and bear fruit as extravagant purveyors of grace and truth. If that sounds like radical marching orders, it is. It is relatively easy to speak of God’s presence and action in our lives to people who are like minded. But, that is not extravagant. In fact it is a bit stingy. We are intended to spread the blessing by scattering the words of our faith on rocks, in the weeds as well as in rich loamy soil. 

The other day someone told me about a friend who recently traveled with her church to Iraq ostensibly to take photographs of the country when in actuality they were passing out Bibles. As the enfleshed word of God these faithful folks continue God's sowing,  scattering the seeds of God's word extravagantly. Most of us are unlikely to travel to Iraq but that does not mean we are not intended to live as revelations of God’s word in the world. What does that look like? Loving our neighbors as well as those who hate or persecute us. Replacing our troubled, unkind, harsh or disagreeable thoughts, words and actions with careful words and compassionate ways. Remembering always that we too are revelations of God’s word sown throughout the earth.


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Saturday, July 8, 2017

Gospel text for Sunday 9 July 2017


Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30        Jesus said to the crowd, “To what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,
‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Reflection        Jesus’ yoke is easy, his burden is light because he is not weighed down with the baggage of pride, insolence, disrespect and acrimony. Because Jesus consents to the present moment exactly as it is, he is not troubled, irritable, harsh, disagreeable or unkind.  Thus unburdened, Jesus is soft spoken, unpretentious and respectful. He is merciful, “gentle and humble in heart.”

As the prophet Zechariah proclaims, “The king comes humble and riding on a donkey… He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations…” (Zech 9.10-11) This is a great paradox. The true king, the one who rules and commands peace in all nations, is humble, rides a donkey not a limousine; is soft spoken not disagreeable;  unpretentious not disdainful;  respectful not unkind. The true king is merciful, “gentle and humble in heart.” 

The psalmist makes the same point, “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and of great kindness. The Lord is loving to everyone and his compassion is over all his works.” (Ps 145.8-9) Here is the thing. Like Jesus we are made in the image and likeness of God and intended to embody and express the attributes of God, the true king. We are intended to be slow to anger and of great kindness, full of compassion, gentle and humble in heart. We are intended to command peace in all nations.

How are we to do or be this? How are we to ward off the news and the uncivil discourse that assaults and carries us away? We are steeped in a world that endorses pride, insolence, disrespect and acrimony. We are constantly bombarded by troubled, irritable, harsh, disagreeable and unkind words and images. If we allow this negativity to grab us and sweep us away we will not be “gentle and humble in heart.”  We will lose all hope.  

But, we are people of God and we find our hope by choosing to live “with-God lives.” So we come together to worship, study and learn from Jesus.  We come together to exchange our  troubled, irritable, harsh, disagreeable and unkind thoughts, words and actions for Jesus’ gentle and merciful ways. We come together to relieve and replace the burdens of our pride, insolence, disrespect and acrimony with Jesus’ compassion and humble heart. 

No, this is not easy, in fact we probably cannot do it by our will alone.  That is why we put our faith in Jesus’ teaching, “For humans it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matt 19.26)


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Friday, June 30, 2017

The Collect for Independence Day 2 July 2017


The Collect for Independence Day. 
Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn: Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Reflection        “Behavior that is morally justifiable or right” is the common dictionary definition of “righteousness,” the habitual way of life upon which rests “liberties” for all people. This begs several questions; What behaviors are morally justifiable or right? Who is the arbiter of standards for morality or rightness? For whom do these standards apply? 

Judaism, Christianity and Islam intersect by pointing to Divine Law as expressed in the Hebrew Testament, the Christian Testament and the Qur’an as the standard for human righteousness. The Torah, the Law of Moses, is given to the Israelites during their time wandering in the desert. Then the Book of Leviticus instructs the Israelites how to conduct themselves legally and morally and provides ritual guidance to restore them to right relationship when they turn away from God or engage in impure behavior. 

In the Christian Testament when a lawyer tested Jesus asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’  Jesus 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.’” (Matt 22.35-40) In other words, the standard for righteousness given to Christians is to be in loving relationship with God and with all people.

Turning to the Qur’an we find a definition of righteousness given to our Islamic sisters and brothers, “Righteousness is not that you turn your faces to the east and the west [in prayer]. But righteous is the one who believes in God, the Last Day, the Angels, the Scripture and the Prophets; who gives his wealth in spite of love for it to kinsfolk, orphans, the poor, the wayfarer, to those who ask and to set slaves free. And (righteous are) those who pray, pay alms, honor their agreements, and are patient in (times of) poverty, ailment and during conflict. Such are the people of truth. And they are the God-Fearing.” Qur'an Surah 2: Verse 177

All three Abrahamic traditions teach that behaviors that are morally justifiable or right, righteousness, emulate the attributes of God. By embodying the attributes of God we promote, sustain and restore respectful, generous, benevolent and trustworthy relationships among people.  Righteousness, the habitual way of life upon which rests “liberties” for all people, is the root of all three religious traditions. Perhaps it is time for all of us to return to our root. 

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Gospel text for Sunday 25 June 2017

Matthew 10:24-39        Jesus said to the twelve disciples, “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!

“So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father,  and a daughter against her mother, 
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

Reflection       Surely there is part of each of us that does not like Jesus’ words, “I come not to bring peace, but a sword.” We want Jesus to come like a 1960s peacenik, to love us and assure us that “it is all good.” But, it is not all good. Martin Luther King, Jr. puts it this way, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.” It does not serve to put our heads in the sand and be silent. It is up to us to speak out against cruelty and oppression.

The sword that Jesus offers is the instrument for discernment, for separating what is of God from that which is not of God. As people of God, presumably good people, we are to pick up the sword and cut the fat away from the bone. We are to ask the difficult questions. What desires for security, esteem, power and control lead me to act at the expense of others? What customs, traditions or proclivities prevent my generosity? How do my habits, attitudes or humor ignite suspicion, dread or terror? Before we point our finger to villains outside ourselves, we must first examine and admit our own selfish and harmful inclinations. 

And then we get on our knees and pray, “O Lord, come quickly. Guide your sword to cut away all that keeps me afraid; afraid of being the revelation of your love in my thoughts, my words and my actions. Cut away my inordinate desires for security, esteem, power and control. Cut away my attachment to attitudes, moods and mindsets that elevate me at the expense of others. Cut away all that separates me from you and the compassionate care of all people.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. avers,  “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” This week Arizona’s Episcopal Bishop Smith was unequivocal “about the importance of the church taking a stand on moral and ethic(al) issues that affect our country.” He elaborates, “The pending vote on healthcare is now such a time” and invites us to join him adding our names to those opposed to the Senate plan.*

Like Jesus and MLK, Ghandi and Desmond Tutu, we are people of God growing up in a territory preoccupied with the acquisition of security, esteem, power and control regardless of the cost to humanity. Like Jesus and other nonviolent revolutionaries we, the people of God, are intended to be exemplars of life lived with God, facing the inevitable challenges of life in faith not fear, wielding the sword of care and compassion, defending the poor, healing the sick and caring for the vulnerable among us. Act now. 

“Do not be afraid.”
Call, email or fax our senators and thank them for their courage taking the moral stand to maintain healthcare coverage for children, the poor, the disabled, the sick, the aging and the middle class. 

* Senator McCain    
Phone: DC Office (202)224-2235 or Arizona (602)952-2410
Email:    www.mccain.senate.gov; Click on “contact”
Fax:    (855)952-8702
* Senator Flake    
Phone:  DC Office (202)224-4521 or (602)840-1891
Email:    www.flake.senate.gov; Click on “contact"
Fax:    (602)840-4092

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Friday, June 16, 2017

Hebrew Testament Text for 18 June 2017

 

Genesis 18:1-15      The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.” Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.” But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”

Reflection       A long time ago sitting on the back pew I shook my head and laughed anxiously when I caught the first glimpse of myself as an Episcopal priest.This was not the last time I would emulate my ancestor Sarah with the nervous laugh of incredulity fluttering through my shoulders. The fact that a disproportionate number of my friends were Episcopal priests with whom I found a great deal in common made me jittery. When folks put me and the word priest in the same sentence I snorted, looked anxiously away and lied, ”Oh, it’s nothing.”

My defenses began to unravel during an intensive retreat while being trained to be a spiritual director (one of my ploys to avoid the priesthood thing). I was sitting alone in a beautiful chapel, sent there with the assignment to allow my senses to take in the present moment. “See and hear, smell and touch whatever is around you.” From where I sat I could see two words carved on the stone wall behind the altar, “with God.” After staring at them for awhile I stood up and walked behind the altar to see what words proceeded “with God.” and read, “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

My human mentality leapt to attention, “Well, there are some things even God could not do with yours truly.” The  nervous laugh returned. I protested, “The words are completely out of context. Who said them? To whom? What was their point?” Wracking my brain for where I had heard them I noticed the citation,  Luke 1.37. Since I was standing near the altar Bible I turned the pages to Lukes’ gospel and found, “The Birth of Jesus Foretold.”  I knew the story. “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a woman named Mary….. and said, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’” With you.  

But Mary was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be… 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.” (Luke 126-29, 35-37)

My nervous laughter morphed into deep intestinal distress. Hoping to lay to rest the words screaming in my heart I closed the Bible, left the chapel and walked to the adjacent cemetery. Reading names of the dead did not shut out the echo of the word tethered to my heart, “impossible.” I do not know how many months passed with me shackled to, “impossible,” until l I realized, “This is not about what is or is not possible for me. This is about what is possible with God. With God. This is an entirely different story.

The first book of Debra read something like, “Look at Debra. Nothing will be impossible for her. See all the ways she has proven herself? See all the things she has accomplished? What you do not see is how utterly and completely terrified she has been, terrified to fail, terrified to be found out that she really is not up snuff. Anyway, she is too old to start a new vocation. Woe to Debra.  Book one is done.”

So began book two. It was as if the Spirit came and spoke into my heart, “Remember the first two words you saw carved in stone behind the altar, ‘with God?’ God  is with you. You do not have to be afraid. You see, when you choose with God life, nothing is impossible because nothing is impossible with God.” Remember Abraham? Sarah? Elizabeth? Mary? Jesus? the disciples? 

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Saturday, June 10, 2017

2017 06 11 Gospel Text for Trinity Sunday, 11 June 2017

Matthew 28:16-20        The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Reflection      A Gift of  Love poured out, love received. This is the dance, perichoresis, the eternal movement or aliveness of the Three Persons of the Trinity. God pours God’s self out to be incarnate in the Son revealing to us that God is both transcendent and immanent, which is to say, God is both beyond all things and within all things.  By this same interpenetrating love, Jesus pours himself out, gives himself away to everyone he encounters. And then, to insure the continuation of the dance, the Holy Spirit breathes in each of us so that we too can pour ourselves out for the good of others and take our place in the divine dance of the Trinity.

Last week eleven members of Church of the Apostles accepted an invitation to join our Muslim sisters and brothers breaking their Ramadan fast with an iftar meal. I believe our Muslim sisters' and brothers' hospitality and our apostles' experiences exemplify what it means to pour ourselves out and take our place in the divine dance of the Trinity.

Our Muslim sisters and brothers warmly welcomed us to a carefully planned and lovingly prepared meal, shared their call to prayer and explained the blessings of the Ramadan fast. In other words, they poured out love to us. Each one of us was moved by our new friends' grace and generosity. Later one of the apostles meekly admitted, “I have been afraid of Muslims and never would have attended an iftar in the past. It has taken a lot of work to see my way clear of it,  so I told myself I should accept this invitation and face my fear. And then I sat at a table and met Muslim people who have the same cares, interests and desires as me. This has changed me. It has made me see everyone differently.” This is perichoresis, participating in the divine dance. 

Another wrote to me following the iftar meal,  “Now when I pray for my Muslim neighbors, they are more than a group; they are individuals with faces and stories and dreams.” And another, “ I got to know a family of five. We exchanged phone numbers and they are going to come to my home. I have to admit I had a fleeting thought “is this safe”?  The news has been so horrible lately.  The thought seems ridiculous when I remember the evening and the kind people.”” This is perichoresis, participating in the divine dance.

In the words of Jürgen Moltmann, “True human fellowship is to correspond to the triune God and be (God’s) image on earth…” (Holy Spirit, 60). We are meant to be the outward and visible sign of life shared in mutuality of love as exemplified by the Trinity. As we accepted the invitation to taste and see and be part of the iftar meal with our Muslim sisters and brothers, we participated in the aliveness and abundance of the Trinity.  A Gift of Love poured out. Love received. This is the norm for human relationships and beautifully revealed in the mystery of the Trinity. As God is so are we fundamentally relational. We are meant to taste and see and be in loving relationship with all people - no exceptions. 

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Saturday, June 3, 2017

Gospel text for Pentecost 4 June 2017


John 20:19-23        When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Reflection      How can we possibly respond to Jesus’ challenging commission, “Peace I leave with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you?… Forgive the sins of any and they are forgive…” I do not know about you but I want to say, “Jesus, are you kidding me? You are sending me to bring peace and reconciliation to all people? to forgive the sins of anyone, really? Have you not been paying attention to the news? Have you any idea what is going on in our world? The very thought of me bringing peace and forgiveness makes my stomach leap into my throat. This is hard to swallow.” 

Then I remember. This is not about us individual persons making righteous judgments, fixing people or the world. It is about us remembering that everything that is, is already part of God. This is reality. God is reality. In the words of Philip K. Dick, "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, does not go away."* All we need to do is sit still in reality, in  the middle of our storm tossed minds and emotionally fraught bodies and wait, wait for the peace that is evidence of God with us. Wait until we hear our hearts beating and the weighty, dependable peace rooted deep inside will rise to guide us to be the peace we desire for our world. 

When we stop struggling against reality as it is, we find ourselves steeped in the Reality of God, claim our place in the Mystery of the Holy Trinity and proclaim with our brother Jesus, “ I am in the Father, and you in me and I in you.” (John 14.20) We are One, all people and all of creation. Nothing is not part of God. God is Reality. This is spiritual freedom, freedom from identification with our thoughts, feelings and desires about God or Reality. This is freedom to be the peace we are sent to make known in all the world.   

For an interesting conversation about the relationship of Science, Religion and Reality please listen to Michael Dowd's Ted Talk by clicking on the top right of this page. 

* How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later, 1978
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Friday, May 26, 2017

Christian Testament Text for Sunday 28 April 2017

1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11        Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ's sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.

Reflection   “…do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you…” Could any words be more à propos for the incendiary social political milieu in which we find ourselves today? Regardless of our political persuasion our minds, bodies and spirits are continually subjected to the public airing of vitriol, malevolence and contempt, “like roaring lions our perceived adversaries prowl around looking to devour us.” 

I believe the true enemy of human consciousness, the dispassionate “devil that prowls around looking for someone to devour,” in not interested in which party, politic or program we support. It’s unwonted intention is to turn up the heat, provoke malice and mistrust, and reduce humanity to its base and brute lowest common denominator. When we stone one another with rocks, words or state-of-the-art weapons we, like “roaring lions” are essentially crucifying the Christ that lives and breathes and finds its Being in our “sisters and brothers in all the world.” 

Like the people living in exile in the Roman provinces of Asia Minor for whom the First Letter of Peter was written, we feel maligned and reviled. We believe our particular position on health care, taxes, foreign policy, role of government, and countless other propositions is right and the position of other people is wrong. Not only are “those other people” wrong, they are the source of our suffering.  So we dig in our heels, defend our position and seek persecution of the other - and in so doing the prowling devil devours our humanity. We pick up sharp sticks and stones, and “like roaring lions” strike with hostility and hatefulness. 

All this because we have failed to “discipline ourselves,” we have failed to “keep alert” and resist the enemy of human consciousness. We, the people of God have not been “steadfast in (our) faith;”  we have forgotten “that (our) brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.”  We have put ourselves in the place of God rather than humbling ourselves “under the mighty hand of God.” We have forgotten that the essence of our humanity depends on our recognition that the Spirit of God is resting on us, resting on all of us without exception. 

What if we refused to be bedeviled. What if we humbly admitted that the “fiery ordeal” in which we find ourselves is beyond our comprehension but it will not devour our humanity; that no matter what befalls us we will not be reduced to our base and brute creatureliness? What if we decided to be “steadfast in our faith,” to put down our rocks and words and state-of-the-art weapons and express the Spirit of God’s love for all people? What if we refused to crucify our humanity?


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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Gospel text for Sunday 21 May 2017

                                      

John 14.15-21        Jesus said, ”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”

”I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

Reflection        At twelve years old I attended the funeral of the person I loved the most in the world. When I looked into the coffin and touched his cold hand there was one thing I absolutely knew, “Grampa is not here” in this strange waxy body and shiny mahogany box… “but somehow he is still here.” That’s what I told my mother. She shook her head and said, “Your grandfather is dead.” 

I believe my little girl self somehow knew the Spirit of Truth whom my mother could not receive. Later that day when the adults were drinking manhattans and telling stories of Grampa’s life I took cover in my room and found comfort in knowing my Grampa was with me even if “the world could no longer see him.”

Many years passed before I found my way to John’s gospel text, “”I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me… ” With those words I understood that my Grandfather had to leave me, but he did not leave me orphaned because he opened for me the way of being in relationship with something more which in theological terms we call the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth. By his death my grandfather gave to me the gift of life in and of and with the Spirit, the second Advocate.

Here is the thing. Jesus does not promise the disciples and us that when we die we will ascend to a cherub strewn utopia of mythic proportions. Rather, Jesus offers us the opportunity to participate in the eternal life of Spirit with us right here, right now, on earth. Our purpose is not to stumble through life scrupulously sidestepping as many sins as possible in order to accrue enough points to trade our way into happily ever-after life. Our purpose is to receive and make visible the Presence of the Spirit of Truth with us, right now.

Jesus is our first Advocate. He goes to the father as paraklaytos, an advocate  to plead our case to God and he says, “… I will ask the father, and (God) will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth…” The  second Advocate is the Spirit of Truth given to aid, assist and counsel us “to lead us to a deeper knowledge of gospel truth and give us the divine strength needed to undergo trials and persecutions on behalf of the kingdom (of God right here, right now on earth).” (Strong’s G3875) The Spirit of Truth or the second Advocate is that which imbues us with the knowledge of God and the capacity to act in accord with that knowledge. But it does not stop there. 

As people of God we are the third wave of Advocates who by grace are imbued with the Spirit of Truth and the capacity to pass it on. May the Force, the Spirit of Truth, be with you!


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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Gospel text 5th Sunday of Easter 14 May 2017

John 14:1-14        Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 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, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”

Reflection       Out of the context of the rest of what Jesus is explaining to Thomas, the words “I am the way and the truth and the life,” have been construed to conscript Jews, Muslims, atheists and nones  to the outer realms of darkness.  They are also used to leave behind Christians who do not subscribe to Biblical inerrancy and claim belief in Jesus as the only way to salvation.  The implications for those of us who reject the idea of certainty and uphold the value of all faith traditions are grim.

The confusion begins when Jesus tries to answer Thomas’ question, “Lord, we do not know where you are going, how can we know the way?” Thomas is asking Jesus how he, Thomas, can find the way into divine  relationship, relationship with God the Father. Thomas is not asking on behalf of all Jews or Gentiles or all people on earth. Thomas, who already knows Jesus, is personally asking Jesus, “How can I be in relationship with the Father, transcendent divinity,  after you, immanent divinity, have gone away?” 

Once we put Jesus’ response to Thomas’ question in context we can no longer construe Jesus’s words, “I am the way and the truth and the life,” as an exclusionary statement delineating the one true faith or church or way. Jesus is not making a universal truth statement. He is not  speaking in general to Gentiles or others who do not know him. He is speaking to a follower and friend. Think of it this way. Do we use the same manner of speech with close friends, parters or our children as we do with acquaintances, colleagues or strangers?

When I say to my daughter Leela, you are the best daughter in the world, I am speaking truth to her. It is deeply personal and hopefully meaningful to Leela. What if others were to argue that what I said specifically to Leela is a universal truth, Leela is the best daughter in the world? Someone might balk, “No, my daughter is the best in the world,” and down a slippery slope we slide.

A personal truth claim is not necessarily a universal truth claim. 

Jesus is telling Thomas and those of us who choose to follow him, if we recognize truth as revealed through his teaching and his actions, in other words, if we recognize the Word God spoken and embodied through Jesus’ life and ministry, then we have already known and seen transcendent Father God with us. The transcendent and immanent are known in relationship to one another. Truth is revealed in relationship, in community and in context. This is a both-and way of being.

For an interesting read on Transcendence and Immanence from a Buddhist perspective go to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-loy/transcendence-or-immanence-balancing-heaven-and-earth_b_3166015.html


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