Saturday, December 29, 2018

Gospel text for 1st Sunday after Christmas 30 December 2018

John 1:1-18        In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

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

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

Reflection           “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” This prophetic sentence means more than God is with us. It even means more than God is within us. It also means that every one of us participates in the creating power of God - the Word. The power of the word is real and the power is delivered as we choose to use our words. 

More than once I have longed to edit - delete the words that leaped out of my mouth. More than once I have intended to “Say something nice,” only to hear myself deliver daggers. Words are a powerful force uniquely available to humankind. When we choose to use our words like daggers or darts they deliver harm, humiliation, killing energy. When we choose to use our words as blessing and absolution they deliver benefit, mercy and life. Words can kill and words can create.

As people of God imbued with the power of words we must ask ourselves, “How will we use our words to add light to a world full of broken hearts and crushed dreams? How will we use our words to offer comfort, encouragement, support and healing to a world full of disease and violence, fear and marginalization? Will we allow the Word God to inspire us to penetrate the darkness? to articulate God’s delight in creation? to give voice to the promise of peace and new life to friends and neighbors and strangers? How will we use our words to continue God’s life-giving power in our world today?

As we face the travail of volatile stock markets, wars, rumors of war, blue explosions, shuttered government, uncivil unrest, elusive ethics with the accompanying anguish, gloom and despondency, the questions is, “Do we have the courage to use our words to create rather than destroy?  Do we have the audacity to use our words to promote God’s promise of light and life and love for all people?

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

Monday, December 24, 2018

Good news for all the people! hOlybytes: Gospel text for Christmas Eve & Christmas Day 24 D...

hOlybytes: Gospel text for Christmas Eve & Christmas Day 24 D...: Join us for Christmas Services   Dec 24th 5pm and 9pm  Dec 25th 9:30am Luke 2:1-14        In those days a decree went out from E...

Gospel text for Christmas Eve & Christmas Day 24 December 2018

Join us for Christmas Services  
Dec 24th 5pm and 9pm 
Dec 25th 9:30am

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        Mary and Joseph are living in Roman occupied territory and the Emperor Augustus is exercising his power over “the whole world” in order to enhance his wealth by requiring all people to register in their ancestral homes and be taxed accordingly. Here we see a picture of worldly power exercised without regard to the suffering and hardship it causes vast swaths of ordinary folks, people like pregnant Mary and her fianceĆ© Joseph whom we meet tonight trekking across the dangerous desert skirting vipers, tigers, scorpions and bandits, giving birth to their son in conditions barely fit for barn yard animals, wrapping him in rags and tucking him into a feeding trough. 

At the same time we witness another story unfolding. An angel of the Lord, a messenger of God, breaks into this fear riddled night with a promise of light to poor shepherds who are ‘living in the field,’  poor men who stay awake all night to protect their sheep from predator wolves.  Surely we are as startled as the shepherds to hear the angels decree, ”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. And this will be a sign for you, you will find the child (wrapped in rags and lying in a feeding trough.)”

Two dramatically different ways to imagine the identical situation. Seen through Emperor Augustus’ eyes, the child born in the City of David, wrapped in rags and tucked into a feeding trough is of no consequence beyond adding a mite to the his tax revenue. From the angel’s angle, the child born in the City of David, wrapped in rags and tucked into a feeding trough is of unspeakable consequence, “a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord,” and this is “good news of great joy for all the people.”

Angels, angelus, are messengers from God, and, if you have ever encountered an angel you know, angels bring with them the glory of God. We sang it in our Christmas Carol, “Angels we have heard on high singing sweetly through the night…. gloria in excelsis deo.” And again just before the reading of Luke’s gospel, “Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn King!” Glorious exclamations of praise and joy. Christ is born. Our waiting is over. The promise of peace is fulfilled this night. This is the good news of great joy for all the people. 

The questions before us this Christmas are several. “Through whose eyes do we choose to see the whole world? Through the self-serving eyes of the autocrat or the all-inclusive vision of the angels? In which story do we choose to participate? In Augustus’ me first, “power over” parable of selfishness or in the angel’s all inclusive narrative of generosity? How do we choose to imagine our world? As a resource from which to extract as much as possible or as a resource given to be revered and protected for the good of all? Which voice do we choose to embody? The  disapproving shout of condemnation or the sanctifying voice singing praise to God?

Merry Christmas!

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

Friday, December 21, 2018

Gospel text for 4th Sunday of Advent 23 December 2018

Luke 1:39-45        In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.

When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

Reflection       This is the fourth Sunday of Advent and by now you probably have noticed something of a theme - preparing our hearts, the refiner’s fire, turning around to live from the inside out, and purifying our conscience. The question is why? Why all the fuss and preparation?

I believe the answer is, “So that like Mary we can fully and freely consent to with God life, so that we are available to be blessed.”  All of this is germane to our theme for the liturgical year, Finding God in All Things. You see, the more we examen our conscience, purify our hearts and live from the inside out the more we will be able to Find God in All Things. 

The Rev. Greg Boyle, S.J., author of Tatoos on the the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, has been serving gang members in Los Angeles for twenty years, finding God in himself and the gang members as together they grow in their life and work at Homeboy Industries. Here is a story Boyle told in an America Magazine article.*  

“Louie was 19 years old, a gang member making money hand over fist by running up to cars and selling crack cocaine. He quickly became his own best customer. After my many attempts to get him into rehab, he finally agreed to check himself in. He was there one month when his younger brother Erick did something gang members never do. He put a gun to his temple and killed himself. Gang members are much more inclined to walk into enemy turf and hope to die than to pull the trigger themselves.

I called Louie and told him what happened. He was crestfallen. “I will pick you up for the funeral,” I said, “but I’m driving you right back.” “I want to come back,” he said through his tears. “I like how recovery feels.”

When I arrive at the rehab center, Louie greets me with un abrazo, and once in the car, he launches in. “I had a dream last night—and you were in it.” In the dream, he tells me, the two of us are in a darkened room. No lights whatsoever. No illuminated exit signs. No light creeping from under the door. Total darkness. We are not speaking, but he knows I am in the room with him. Then, silently, I pull a flashlight from my pocket and aim steadily on the light switch across the room. Louie tells me that he knows that only he can turn the light switch on. He expresses his gratitude that I happen to have a flashlight. Then with great trepidation, Louie moves slowly toward the light switch, following closely the guiding beam of light. He takes a deep breath, flips the switch on, and the room is flooded with light. As he tells me this, he begins sobbing. “And the light,” he says, “is better than the darkness.” As though he had not known this was the case.”

Boyle reflects, “We cannot turn the light switch on for anyone. But we all own flashlights. With any luck, on any given day, we know where to aim them for each other. We do not rescue anyone at the margins. But go figure, if we stand at the margins, we are all rescued. No mistake about it.”

You see, blessing is shining our flashlights on with God life, regardless of the circumstance. Blessing compels us to know God more clearly, love God more dearly and follow God more nearly, in other words, blessing is finding God in all things

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

Friday, December 14, 2018

Gospel text for the Third Sunday of Advent 16 December 2018

Luke 3.7-18        John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

And the crowds asked him, "What then should we do?" In reply he said to them, "Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise." Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, "Teacher, what should we do?" He said to them, "Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you." Soldiers also asked him, "And we, what should we do?" He said to them, "Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, "I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."
So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.

Reflection        In theory the prophet’s counsel sounds good… ”Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” But when it comes to actually putting his words into action, we look into our closets and cringe. Like Paul we must confess, “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing.” (Ro 7.19)  But this is not all bad news. 

As soon as we stumble over some block within us that prevents us from being and doing the greater good, as soon as we bump into a wall that bars us from being in right relationship with one another and God, that cringing, unsettling sense within tells us, we have stumbled onto something important. 

What is it that we have stumbled onto? The very obstacles that keep us from being and doing the greater good. In my case the mountain of bumps is mostly made of thoughts; “But I wear most of my coats. Why should I have to do this? I have always taken care of myself.  What if I don’t have enough? What if my family has a disaster? What if the economy goes south? Doesn’t God help those who help themselves? Compared to other people I don’t have that much. I have already given at the office. Oh, what should I do?” Please feel free to add your own.  

Hearing the prophet's answer to our question, “What then should we do?” our hearts sink into our stomachs, our shoulders hug our ears and we can barely swallow. In this vexing moment we are toe to toe with our stumbling blocks.  “What if we come upon hard times? Should we really give away the resources our loved ones should inherit? How do we know what is enough? Why should I give to someone who has not worked like I have? What will people think if I stop striving to acquire more money, power or position?”  But alas, these questions miss the mark. 

We do not begin with a question of what we do outside. We begin with a question of who we are inside. You see, John the Baptizer is calling our ancestors and us to repent. It is no less than a moral change to turn around and live our lives from the inside out, in accord with who we really are. This is what John is pointing to when he says, “the one who is to come (Jesus) will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”Here is the thing, the Holy Spirit is already breathed like fire into every one of us. We are already the beneficiaries of God’s Spirit with us.

The Holy Spirit of God with us is like the refiner’s fire; it burns away the impurities, the obstacles, whatever prevents us from being our true selves. It is the fiery Spirit of God with us that transforms our stumbling blocks into courage to live beyond the box of our self-centered concerns. It is the fiery Spirit of God with us that ignites our desire to be and to do all that we do for the Greater Glory of God.

The question is not, “How many coats do you have in your closet and how many should you give away?” The question is,  “How will you live from the inside out for the greater glory of God? 

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

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Hebrew Testament and Gospel texts for 2nd Sunday of Advent 9 December 2018

Malachi 3:1-4        See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight-- indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?

For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

Luke 3:1-6        In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
"The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
'Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'"

Reflection        When living in Santa Fe my first home was near Los Cerrillos, the little hills south of town that were decorated with mostly defunct turquoise mines. Sometimes I would go riding with friends who recognized in the craggy rubble, rocks that hid within their hearts turquoise treasure. All I saw was gravel but my prophetic friends could see beyond the accumulated dross of the rubble’s history to the treasure hidden within the rock. 

What I learned about turquoise is, it is mostly found in sedimentary rocks, rocks born of preexisting rocks that have been battered and delivered by weather, infused with mineral bearing water (the copper in water is actually responsible for the chemical reaction that becomes turquoise) then cemented together under the pressure of time.

I find it interesting that in many ways we humans are like sedimentary rocks. Conglomerates of our encounters with preexisting humans (think parents, partners,  church, teachers, colleagues, strangers) subjected to the changing tides of our circumstance (age, position, finances, health, success, failure), infused with Divinity born of water and the Spirit and cemented into the conditioned composite of all of our experiences, skills, talents and desires. In other words, we are a motley mix of multifarious matter and moments akin to the sedimentary rocks in which treasured turquoise is hidden. 

Much as I needed friends to deliver the message that turquoise treasures were hidden in the rubble beneath our horses’ hooves so too must we hear the voice of the messenger crying, “Dear people of God, the treasure of your true selves lies hidden within you. And, it must be subjected to the refiner’s fine and fuller’s soap to be revealed and purified until you are pleasing to the Lord.” 

When I think of fire images of the Paradise wildfire in California leap to mind. Destruction. Fire destroys everything in its path. This is not good news. But this is not the kind of fire to which Malaki refers.

Malaki is speaking of refiners fire, controlled fire that is used to melt and purify the silver and gold that is hidden in unrefined rock.  Here is the thing. We humans need to be refined so that the precious metal of our true selves will rise to consciousness. Another way to say this is, the layers of accumulated dross and dribble that make us think and feel and behave as if we are less than brilliant revelations of Divine Presence must be burned away so that we experience and express the light and life of Divine Presence on earth. 

Of course turquoise, gold and us cannot refine ourselves, which is why we also listen to John the Baptizer. When we are ready to be set free from our stoney exteriors, we stop whatever we are doing, turn around and receive God’s consciousness transforming forgiveness.  When we stop obsessing about the wrongs done to us and by us, and allow our “crooked ways to be made straight and our rough ways made smooth,” we experience the freedom of being and becoming aligned in Divine Presence. 

Our human mentality gets all wrapped up in the countless wounds and humiliations we have endured; the times we were not chosen, were cheated on, abused, betrayed or misunderstood. Likewise, we are imprisoned by our errors and guilt for the wounds we have inflicted on others. From time to time we are stuck in a cyclone obsessed with our sin and the sin of others.

Here is the thing. Allowing thoughts of the wrongs done to and by us to own real estate in our minds is like condemning ourselves to life in prison or burying turquoise beneath Mount Lemmon. Of course we must admit the wrongs we have done and those that have been done to us, but, then we must stop, receive and express forgiveness, amend our ways and move on.

John the Baptizer is essentially saying, “Stop. Look at what you are doing to yourselves. Turn around. Let your emptiness be filled and let your pride be leveled. Whatever is needed will be completed by the Spirit of God with you in the baptism of  the refiner’s fire.”  For as long as we identify ourselves as victims or perpetrators, in other words, as long as we obsess over wrongs done to us or by us,  we are not free. We are all tied up and constrained like turquoise hidden in rubble. We do not have the spaciousness to experience and express the light and life of Divine presence on earth. 

And here is the good news. We do not have to fix it, because we cannot. God, Divine Presence, is like a refiner’s fire or fuller’s soap. The fire and the soap are the unconditional forgiveness of God. All we have to do is turn away from our self-imprisoning thoughts and turn toward God’s transforming forgiveness and our mountains and hills will be made low, our crooked ways will be made straight, our rough ways made smooth and the gold and silver of our true selves will be revealed as reflections of the light and life of Divine Presence with us.

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

Friday, November 30, 2018

Gospel text for First Sunday of Advent 2 December 2018

Luke 21:25-36        Jesus said, "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Then he told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

"Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Happy New Year! Sunday begins our new liturgical year, year three, the year of the gospel according to Luke and I want to invite you to join me in A Year of Finding God in All Things. First let me give you a bit of context. You see, finding God and responding to God is not a new idea.

In the Christian Testament (although it is true of the people of the Hebrew Testament as well) we meet single Mary and the Shepherds, all of whom are visited by angels. And when his parents take him to the the temple to be named, somehow the old visionary Anna knows Jesus is the promised Messiah. How do all of these ordinary people recognize the presence of God? How can they tell? Remember, all of this happens before the healings, signs and miracles of Jesus’ ministry?

All three of the synoptic gospels report the melodramatic moment of Jesus’ baptism wherein Jesus has a vision of the heavens torn open and sees a dove descending upon him and hears a voice saying, “You are my son the beloved, with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1.9-11, Matthew 3.13-17, Luke 3.21-22)  How does Jesus know it is the Spirit of God talking and not a dose of spoiled wine?

After Jesus’ death the disciples report meeting the risen Jesus in all different contexts (garden, closed room, on the beach, on the road)… in all different forms (gardener, stranger, foreigner, friend). Vision? Revelation? Hallucination? 

How did all of these people whose stories have impacted hundreds of millions of people, even entire civilizations, how did they recognize the Spirit of God with them?

I cannot answer that, but the promise Jesus makes to all who choose to believe can. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” (John 14.26) Furthermore, if we leap into the Book of James, a treatise written for Christians between 90-100 CE, the writer counsels the early Christians and us, “Rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness and welcome with meekness the implanted Word that has power to save your souls.” (James 1.21) 

The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, the implanted Word of God lives within us which means we participate in the incredible revelatory tradition narrated in the Bible. The story of the relationship between God and humanity continues to evolve today - through us. 

This Sunday I will invite the congregation of Apostles to join me in a year of Finding God in All Things using An Ignatian Book of Days by Jim Manney. It is based on St. Ignatius’ exercises or practices aimed at finding God in all things. 

St. Ignatius of Loyola was the founder of the Jesuits, a religious order of men who do not live in monasteries, are not monks and mostly not priests. They are people who engage in every ordinary profession, teacher, cook, accountant, scientist, street sweeper, with the fundamental conviction that God can be found in all things. Ignatian practices gives us a way of looking at the world that helps us see, feel and experience God’s presence in our daily lives, and be better for it. To learn more click on upper right corner to hear Fr. James Martin describe how he found God while watching TV and eating spaghetti.

Perhaps you would like to join us finding God in the  midst of the distress and confusion among nations, in the roaring seas and the foreboding waves shaking our world today?  

If so, you can order An Ignatian Book of Days online and support Apostles when you shop using Amazon Prime. It is easy. Sign up by going to our Amazon Smile link

This will automatically sign you up so that .5% of you purchases will be directed to support Apostles.  Once you are signed up remember to go to whenever you are shopping! Thank you. 

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

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Gospel text for Sunday 25 November 2018

John 18:33-37        Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

Reflection        Power from above. Power from within. Power exercising violence and promoting fear. Power exercising compassion and promoting faith. Power over. Power with. Pilate and Jesus come from and stand in distinctly different kingdoms. It is no wonder they make no sense to each other, answering questions with questions and leaving us wrestling with words much as pundits wrangle with political positions.

I believe Jesus would roll his eyes, shrug his shoulders and walk away in frustration if he googled the lectionary texts for today and read, “Last Sunday After Pentecost, Christ the King.” Can you hear him sighing, “Two thousand years later and they still want to dress me up in regal robes and weigh me down with an Imperial Crown.  My kingdom is not from this world.”

Which begs another question, “What is a kingdom?” A kingdom is a grouping of individual life forms that share fundamental characteristics in common. We learned that in middle school science. There are five biological kingdoms; animals, plants, fungi, and protozoa and eucaryotic algea. Which begs the next question, “What are the fundamental characteristics that distinguish Jesus’ kingdom from Pilate’s?”

Jesus’ kingdom is  founded in the Law of Moses that provides five instructions for how people are  to relate with God and five more directions for how they are to treat one another; the Ten Commandments.  Jesus refines Moses’ Law in his famous sermon on the upside down beatitudes which proscribe preferential treatment to the most vulnerable; the poor, the meek, the mourning, the hungry, the merciful, the good hearted, the peacemakers and those persecuted for being good hearted. (Matt 5.3-10)

When we imagine Jesus’ kind of kingdom, we must admit it does not sound like any kingdom from here today. Anyone who calls him or herself king today would be flanked by body guards, riding in a black bulletproof SUV to an exclusive state dinner, which would be out of this world in only one way, ninety nine percent of the people would not be invited. 

The single-most distinguishing quality of Jesus’ kingdom is the gift of the Spirit of God risen in us all. Jesus, the Christ, governs within us, not over us. This stands in stark contrast to the conventional role of king, ruler or  sovereign like Pilate who claims ultimate authority over the people. But Jesus ministry is all about freeing and empowering the people, restoring the least, the lost and the lonely to wellness so they can fully and freely participate in their community. Everyone counts. Everyone votes because the Spirit of God is with everyone. 

Truly, Jesus’ kingdom is not from this world because if it were we would be fighting to prove his power over others. 

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

Friday, November 16, 2018

Gospel text for Sunday 18 November 2018

Mark 13:1-8        As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”

When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs.”

Reflection       Reading this text from Mark can be down right disturbing. Great buildings will fall flaming down. We will be misled, hear of wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines, all manner of disaster. And this is only the beginning? This sounds too much like a summary of our current events. We want to run away and bury our heads in the sand. 

But if we pause and allow ourselves to rise to the 10,000 foot above the ground perspective we may catch a glimpse of something more. You see, although our minds cannot unravel the complexity of our circumstance and our emotions cannot resist being  swept up in the dramatic tide of news cycles, our hearts ‘know’ there is something more. The apostle Paul explains this in his second letter to the Corinthians, it is “because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.” (2Cor 4.16) 

Regardless of the explosive uncertainty of current events there is something deep within us that  insists there is more to life than meets the eye. And that is what allows us to “walk by faith, not by sight,” (2Cor 5.7)  especially in the midst of chaos. When Jesus instructs the disciples and us to “Beware…” I do not believe he is telling us to build bomb shelters and stock pile supplies to mitigate impending doom. No. Jesus is warning us not to ascribe inordinate value to things that are temporary, things that by definition have an expected ‘shelf-life.’  

When we put our faith in the unborn, undying eternally all that is we are able to sit at the foot of a collapsing building and not flinch. It is not that we are unaffected by the looming loss. We understand that all things that are accessible to our temporary senses are temporary. At the same time we affirm, there is that which “cannot be seen,” and it is eternal. 

We are misled when we put our faith in things that we see because ultimately they will disintegrate and betray us. We rise with Jesus to the 10,000 foot perspective when we see beyond the tumult and rubble to the peace that eternally pervades the maelstrom of commotion. This is the peace Jesus leaves with us, the peace that we cannot see, the peace that is present even when the buildings collapse and “not one stone is left upon another.”

For an experience of 20 minutes of something more please listen to Benjamin Zander’s TED talk.

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

Friday, November 9, 2018

Gospel text for Sunday 11 November 2018

Mark 12:38-44        As Jesus taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Reflection        Did you know that according to a report released by the Pew Research Center in 2017, ninety one percent of the members of Congress identify themselves as Christian? * That being the case, we should be a nation above reproach; people imbued with the Spirit of God working together for the common good? With ninety one percent of the members of Congress identifying themselves as Christian, surely they affirm the fundamental Christian belief that we are all made in the image of God which means we understand all people to be good and therefore treat one another with dignity and respect? Of course we welcome strangers, for we never know, we could be entertaining angels? We share our resources to insure that all of our sisters and brothers have access to decent lives?       How are we doing?

I do not recall anything in Jesus’ teaching about the virtue of amassing wealth and shoring  up power. But today, like the scribes of old who walk around in long robes, demanding respect and seats of honor at elite banquets,  many of the most vocal purveyors of Christian righteousness have sold their moral high ground for financial gain and a place at the table of power. They quote scripture and put on bombastic displays while “devouring widows houses” and turning their backs on the most vulnerable.

Here is the thing. “From the beginning we have misused our freedom and made wrong choices” by “putting ourselves in the place of God.” (bcp 845) That  is  what caused our ancestors Adam and Eve to trip and fall out of the garden, misusing their freedom and making the choice to eat the one and only thing they were told not to touch. And that is what trips us up today, “putting ourselves in the place of God.”

As people of God we have free will to turn toward or away from God. As people of God it is our commission to believe and trust in God, to love our neighbors as ourselves and do to them as we wish them to do to us.” (bcp 848) There it is.  Christians love God and love their neighbors. The purview of sorting and judging people belongs to God - not us.

This is a really high standard; value and dignify all people and leave the judging to God. The cost of being a true Christian is enormous, and frankly, there is only one way we can do it. It is by remembering the New Commandment given to us by Jesus, “Love one another as I have loved you.” We do not have to rely on ourselves to muster up love out of thin air because we are already full of love, love born and blooming within us as the Spirit of God with us. 

Six hundred years before Jesus the prophet Jeremiah foretold of this, “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah… says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jer 31.31,33) Jeremiah’s promise is fulfilled when Jesus gives this parting gift to his friends, I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13.34) and then he promises, “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you… but the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” (John 14.18,25) 

We are not left on our own to conjure up love for all people. The law of love is written on our hearts. We no longer have to depend on ourselves to generate love because the Spirit of God rises in our hearts and pours through us to love one another. This is what makes it possible for us to stretch to the high standard of valuing and dignifying all people and leave the judging to God.

Etched on the stone of our hearts is God’s law of love. The challenge is to remember and rely on it and let God’s law of love dictate our decisive actions. If we deign to identify ourselves as Christian then it is incumbent upon us to verify our claim by our decisive actions; loving one another as God loves us. Nothing more and nothing less. 

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

bcp refers to The Episcopal Church  Book of Common Prayer