Monday, February 20, 2017

Blessed


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.” Matthew 5:1-12

Blessed

The deportees and the rejected are blessed
those who are hiding from the law likewise
this God of our is one who loves the broken
seeking out the hungry, the lonely the oppressed.

We are following a train of compassion
riding the rails with the outcast and deserted
sitting on sidewalks and alleys in cities
we find God in these most humble places.

Blessings do not come to those who hoard
nor to those gated, hidden, fully protected
but to those with little who still dream and hope
to those who carry their young in the night.

We are  walking on the heavenly highway
on foot in front of the other leaving no one behind
we hold hands as we cross in dangerous places
we find God awaiting us at every border.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Small Coins

While Jesus was teaching in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Messiah is the son of David? David himself, by the Holy Spirit, declared,
‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.”‘
“David himself calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?” And the large crowd was listening to him with delight.
As he 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. Mark 12:35-44   
Small Coins

What she has she shares as she persists
To pray despite her constant rejection
Constant  buses from those who see poverty
Women like her as a pariah a sin.
She stands facing us hinting
That God is not among the selective and arrogant
Nor among the rich proud judgemental
God is found among the humble broken and poor.

We know our blessings here in the alleys
Here in the one room full of children
Here is God among he we know and mistaken
God is abundantly found right here.





Friday, February 17, 2017

Love God, Love Your Neighbor


One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that Jesus answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question. Mark 12:28-34

As a child I loved the Charlie Brown and the Peanuts characters. As an adult, I have loved the insight and honesty of Charles Schulz. He seemed to understand how hard it is, even for Linus and me to follow the "love" commandments. Loving God might be easier to some, but loving our neighbors is so much harder. Folks can get under our skin so easily. We can be so filled with anger that we forget how important, particularly now, the commandment to love our neighbor truly is. It is key to our survival and everyone thriving.

Jesus has a confrontation with a scribe, a learned religious leader, who wants to trip up the incarnation of  God. Jesus, after this conversation reminds tells he is not far from the reign of God. Jesus acknowledges the scholar's grasp of the law. He also invites us to draw nearer to God by truly living out those commandments. We cannot draw close to God unless we love our neighbors, and see the importance of embracing all our neighbors, event those who we find difficult to love.

Today, I ask God to help me draw close by extending my hand and heart to those around me. May we find ourselves treating everyone like beloved family today so that all can draw closer to the living God who loves us more than we can even fathom.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Night Prayers


Then they sent to Jesus some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said. And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.” And they brought one. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Jesus said to them, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were utterly amazed at him.
Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that ‘if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.’ There were seven brothers; the first married and, when he died, left no children; and the second married her and died, leaving no children; and the third likewise; none of the seven left children. Last of all the woman herself died. In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had married her.”
Jesus said to them, “Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.” Mark 12:13-27

Night Prayers

The melting is on, the snow piled gray
shows our detritus and dropped coins
at the closing of the day we wake up
to all the things we have left undone.

We know better than to leave undone
the care and kindness the world needs
yet we stumble on thoughtless and shadowed
failing to respond the needs still cry out.

The darkness descends and we hope
for a fresh tomorrow without mistakes
a sunshiny day full of possibilities
although we have ignored so much today.

The divine sits with all the living
those who complain, those who pray
the ones who cannot face their future
those whose lives are shrouded by the past.

The incarnate in the midst of our failure
aches to hold us in our fractured pain
seeks to bring new days and possibilities
rises always to bring light and hope again.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Cornerstone


Again Jesus and the disciples came to Jerusalem. As he was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to him and said, “By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?” Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin? Answer me.” They argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘Of human origin’?”—they were afraid of the crowd, for all regarded John as truly a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
Then he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built a watchtower; then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard. But they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. And again he sent another slave to them; this one they beat over the head and insulted. Then he sent another, and that one they killed. And so it was with many others; some they beat, and others they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this scripture:
‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes’?”

When they realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowd. So they left him and went away. Mark 11:27—12:12 

Every family has events, places and people that form the cornerstone of their relationships and stories. Many of those stories and people we have met in far flung places but they under-gird and support the love we share. Everything we know about ourselves is built up from the places where love grew, where people laughed and ate together, and who held us in hard times.

Jesus goes back to Jerusalem and angers the temple authorities so much that they want to kill him. He stands firm as the cornerstone of God's love on earth and they hate that. They hate that their power is superseded by some humble man who lives for others. They live for themselves and so reject love, healing and transformation. They are greedy while God incarnate is kind and loving. We are invited to remember that God is not found among the powerful and elite. God is found among the humble and the servants. These people are the building blocks of God's love.

Today I ask God to help me be humble and kind every moment. May we be found close to the cornerstone, not seeking power but always seeking love and healing.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

House of Prayer for All Nations


On the following day, when they came from Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.
Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written,
‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’?
But you have made it a den of robbers.”

And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.
In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. Then Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
“Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11:12-26 

House of Prayer for All Nations

When seated in the comfortable pews
observing all the rites and rituals
do we look around and see ourselves only
or do we see the richness our neighborhood?

Can we truly bend in prayer without others
from the rich and colorful tapestry of God?
Can love be known except when shared and
can prayer be honest behind walls and locked doors?

The love of God is not bound by our fears
nor regulated by what makes us feel safe
it breaks through all our preconceived notions
and tears at the fibers of our false security.

This house of prayer is a house of welcome
where we might not understand the language
yet we share a common hope and love
for the children yet to come to thrive together.

Come and pray then with your neighbors
work side by side with enemies and friends
make love visible in our bending abd serving
restore this brokenness by truly living.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Feast Day of Absalom Jones


When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.'” They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
“Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve. Mark 11:1-11

This year, it seems particularly important to remember faithful leaders like Absalom Jones. "The life and legacy of The Rev. Absalom Jones is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, his faith, and his commitment to the causes of freedom, justice and self-determination." This quote comes from the history of the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, Philadelphia, which was founded in 1792. Born in slavery in Delaware, buying his freedom as an adult, he fought faithfully against the violence, rejection and societal constrictions of the day. I look to him today for strength and courage as we fight different agents but the same evils in our day.

Jesus understood that he faced imminent death. He also knew his disciples and followers needed the celebration of his entry into Jerusalem and the Passover to carry them through the rough times ahead. He did not destroy custom but inhabited the cultural needs, in order to help the needy humans around him be strengthened and thrive beyond great violence and tragedy. God provides us, in every time, moments of celebration that help us through the horrors of our own societies and governments. God stands with us in the midst of our worries and fears and reminds us to hold on, be faithful, and believe as the saints before us did.

Today, I ask God to help me be strong in faith and follow the lead of Blessed Absalom Jones and others who have built for love in the face of hate and denial. May we all stand up to any and all abuse with the love and faith of our ancestors and the saints above.