Friday, November 1, 2019

Gospel text for Sunday 3 November 2019

Luke 6:20-31        Jesus looked up at his disciples and said: 
“Blessed are you who are poor, 
for yours is the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now, 
for you will be filled.
“Blessed are you who weep now, 
for you will laugh.
“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets."
"But woe to you who are rich,   
for you have received your consolation.
"Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
"Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.
"Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
"But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Reflection        The life that most of us live looks nothing like the life that Jesus lives. Not just the fact that we have internet and drones, refrigeration and indoor plumbing. But much as some seventy four percent of the world population today lives in multidimensional poverty,* Jesus has no pillow on which to lay his head, depends on the generosity of others for supper, is scorned and roundly reviled by religious as well as political folks in high places. 

Today we find ourselves immersed in a culture obcessed with pleasure, power and privilege yet Jesus tells the disciples and us that the poor, the powerless and the underprivileged are blessed. How can this be? I believe the answer is hidden in plain sight. All we have to do is look at Jesus, the exemplar that stands at the center of our faith.

Rather than follow the road map provided for Jews in ancient Judea by their Roman occupiers, for example, taking a job as a tax collector which would involve fleecing his Jewish relatives but would stand him in good stead with the Romans, or just keeping his opinions to himself regarding the religious officials’ concern with purity laws at the expense of human suffering, Jesus chooses to be vulnerable, to follow God’s plan, act with integrity and be merciful to others even at his own expense. 

And Jesus is blessed. Blessed to do amazing things; healing, teaching and fearlessly facing the most dire circumstance. Blessed to be a prophet whose voice rings through the ages. Did you know there are more books written about Jesus than any other person in history? William Shakespeare comes in second.  Jesus is blessed to be a blessing and we can be too. 

When, like Jesus, our hearts are open, and we take the risk to step out of our comfort zone, get over our fear of change and submit ourselves to God’s plan rather than kow- tow to the status quo, we can expect to be surprised by God. 

My greatest “surprised by God” moment occurred when within  ten days of admitting I felt called to the priesthood three doors burst open and invited me in. I was living in Santa Fe, NM and the bishop of that diocese would not ordain women. Among other things, for about a decade I used that as an excuse not to acknowledge my call to holy orders. Frankly, the whole thing terrified me and seemed impossible. But literally the very moment I decided to walk through my fear of such a radical change, submit to God’s plan and admit to Catherine, my Episcopal priest friend, “I believe I am called to be a priest,” she laughed and said, “Well, it is about time. I can offer you a position here in San Gabriel, CA while you go through the process.” That was a Saturday. The following weekend I was in Ojai, California leading a Centering Prayer workshop. On Sunday morning following services the rector said to me, “Why don’t you come to St. Andrews?  I can give you a three quarter time job while you go through the process.” 

Upon returning to Santa Fe, back in the days of the relic “answering machine,” the little red light was blinking. I pressed listen and heard, “Hi Debra. The word is out that you have finally admitted your call to the priesthood. I think you should come to Arizona. It would be a great place for you to go through the process.” A little more than a week and three church doors were thrown wide open.  Was I ever surprised by God!

When our hearts are open, and we take the risk to step out of our comfort zone, walk through our fear of change and submit ourselves to God’s plan, we can expect to be surprised by God. We can even seek to do the impossible, because nothing is impossible with God.

Are you open to God’s surprises? Are you willing to walk through your fear of change and submit to God’s plan?

  • United Nations Development Program

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