Monday, October 31, 2011
Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to 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 is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons 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 gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. Matthew 13:36-43
The days are growing markedly shorted, and leaves are turning as is our world. We live on the edge this time of year, between seasons, between dark and light, between good and evil, and we feel it most completely on a night like this. I have always enjoyed Halloween, a time to dress up and act out, enjoying the scare and the drama of a good, safe fright. This is not the devil's holiday, not matter what folks might say, but rather a socially acceptable time to admit our fears and vulnerabilities and enjoy the children turning the world upside down for one night. We can all be a little childish on a night such as this, knowing that it is cathartic and a preparation for All Saints' Day.
Jesus is asked to explain the meaning of the parable of the weeds. He is clear that there is evil in the world, people and things that are bent on destroying the blessings of God in life, bent on removing love and goodness from people. Jesus is very clear in his explanation. It is God who removes and burn the weeds. We can tend our gardens and be faithful, but there will be weeds. There will be greed and evil, within and without ourselves. We can do our utmost to keep our hearts and souls from the maligning and the abuse of others, and we can ask God to help us overcome the evil in our world. But in the end, rooting out evil and destroying it all is in God's hands. We are invited to be good and tender gardeners.
Today I ask God to help me examine my heart and rid myself or jealousy, anger and envy. I ask that I might be instead generous and forgiving to everyone I encounter today. May our joy be childlike today, rejoicing in the moment of fun and delight, trusting God to conquer all the evil that comes into the garden. May we use our gifts and skills for the good of all growing and living things today.
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father-- the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted." Matthew 23:1-12
For years, I had a great time making costumes for my daughters. As they got older, they wanted to do more of it themselves, which usually meant we rushed around at the last minute putting an outfit together. We've always enjoyed Halloween for the sheer joy of dressing and disguises, an evening of welcome imagination and silliness. Emily and Ariel were once Kermit and Miss Piggy, Phoebe and Ariel were Oriole Birds - they've been dead cheerleaders, static cling and several other "different" costumes. No matter what, inevitably someone asks them, who are you supposed to be? No matter how obvious or unusual, some people just don't get it.
Jesus was instructing his disciples, helping them to understand that having a fancy title did not make one faithful or important. Living a life of service was what counted, not ruling over people, or misusing the power given by a particular role. Too often we let our role or title got to our head, when what we are to be called, by following Jesus, is servant of the living God.
As this long day comes to an end, I rejoice that our names our known by our creator and that we are loved tenderly and fully. May we use the gifts and the authority we have been given for the sake of others. May our hands, hearts and voices be given in kindness and love of others. And may we not worry the title we have, or who we are, buy whose we are - beloved of God.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.” All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.” Matthew 13:31-35
The other night I was watching the evening news and there was a report that the economy was improving. And then they spoke of how many Americans were unemployed and the number made me realize that almost every family is affected by someone they know unemployed. It hit me hard. All the cranky and difficult people have encountered in the past weeks might just be suffering in ways I cannot imagine. Their pain might just make them drive badly and respond rudely. So many are hurting, and I can either respond in like kind or spread a little kindness and compassion. And I can always pray.
Jesus continues with stories and metaphors for the reign of God. He wants us to understand that there is limitless capacity in each of us by the grace God. This loving creator has breathed life into us and through Christ given us the power to be sons and daughters. We are imbued with the pregnant possibility of being mustard and yeast for the world, given the spirit to offer compassion in the face of pain, kindness in the face of anger, and gentleness in the face of violence.
Today, as storms of all kinds surround us, I ask God to help me be leaven for God, an active participant in spreading love and forgiveness rather than judgement and criticism. May we, who followed the one who suffered and died for all humanity, live with that kind of compassion and tenderness that brings about the reign of God in our time.
Friday, October 28, 2011
He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” Matthew 13:24-30
The abundance of squash and pumpkins is almost overwhelming this time of year. The varieties, shapes and sizes are always amazing. We planted pattipan squash this spring and the plants were huge and beautiful. We were heart broken when they began to struggle and then to whither. They had been infested with a worm that bores into the leaf stems. We tried all the fixes the books and the folks at the nursery knew, but in the end the lovely flowers dropped off and the plants died. Some crops can make it despite weeds and disease and others, which look so healthy and robust can go almost overnight.
Jesus tells another parable about faith. Now, I have always wondered about Jesus believing that weeds can from the enemy. Weeds seem to me to be part of life, and are the most hardy of all plants, traveling on whim and wind and taking over all fertile soil they can find. The point of his story is about patience and the presence of weeds. We can rush to judge and to destroy the weeds, when we end up tearing out the good, the healthy and the potential fruit in our lives. In the end, God is the judge anyway, and will separate out all the bad stuff that seems so prevalent in our every day lives. Weeds are part of every garden, and we are invited to focus on the incredible abundance and nurture the living goodness around us.
Today I ask God to help me nurture the good in myself and others and not focus on the challenges and the weeds in my life. May my work be focused on healing and abundance rather than judgement and weeding out. May we all use our labor and our lives for the feeding and renewing of our world, no matter how challenged our gardens may be.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
“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 has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along 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 he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he 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 deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” Matthew 13:18-23G
Yesterday, I was asked what I do by a nurse practitioner at my pain management appointment. When I told her I was a bishop she told me about her church and her attempts to read the bible. She then asked me where to begin. I suggested she start with the Gospels. Later on she was asking about Halloween. She thought it was evil and the devil's holiday. I explained to her the Christian roots, All Hallows Eve and how it was the one day of the year when the poor could demand food and treats from the rich. She got that it was about turn-about, and justice not about evil. The dressing up was to disguise identity from the masters and land-owners. She seemed to understand, she wanted to learn and thanked me for it. Then she went and talked with one of the other women in the office who verified what I had told her.
Jesus explains the parable, the story he has been telling about how we receive faith and apply it. It is ironic to me that this parable is about planting and reaping in a time when we as a country seem bent on demonizing our migrant farm workers and vilifying those who are willing to do the back breaking labor that no one else will do. Many of the rest of us are willing but don't want to bother getting informed and grow. Others are easily thrown off the path but temptation, tribulation and peer pressure. But those who are willing to grow, to be nurtured and to nurture, those who are willing to be weeded of false ideas and put faith into action - these are those who will find life full and abundant. If we use our gifts, what has been planted within us, then God will supply the increase. If we use what we have for justice for others than we will know true abundance.
Today, I ask God to help me use my gifts, skills and knowledge for the benefit and care of others. May each shared gift add to another's abundance and growth. May all of us offer what we have for justice and mercy so that God's planting might benefit the least among us and all may know the touch of God's abundant love.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. Matthew 13:10-17
In many native traditions, the storyteller is not entertainment for children, but is a person with the power to transform people. Storytellers are those who have spiritual power, and stories themselves are essential to the life of the people. Our stories are not myths but rather part of the ground of our being. The narratives we share are both personal and public, the stories of the Creator's power moving within us. Stories are also teaching tools, not only for children but for the whole people, and many a story teller is considered a holy person among us, carrying the power and traditions from ancient time into the present.
Jesus' disciples question his use of stories, as if they themselves were too grown up and sophisticated to be bothered with parables. He challenges them to understand that what they see as simple or childish, might just be a incredible and holy gift, one they should treasure rather than dismiss. He tells them that what he tells will be remembered and recited, and that they are blessed to live the experience of these stories but the same stories will be life giving to other generations. I believe that Jesus invites us today to tell our stories, to share the gifts and experiences we have been given and to weave them into the divine story.
Today I ask God to help me share with others the richness of God. I ask that I might carry on the tradition of sharing stories, wisdom and insight so that others might grow in strength and faith. May we all share the love that seems hidden to some so that God's open heart might be part of everyone's story today.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, 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 produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” Matthew 13:1-9
Sunday was a glorious and sunny day and we had a nice lunch and decided to go up and walk on the beach. We found a large weathered log washed up on the sand and sat awhile to watch the birds and the roll of the waves. There is nothing like a mild autumn day by the sea. Somehow it is a perfect atmosphere to ponder and reflect. We also were pretty much alone save for a few souls scattered around, a fisherman or two and a few birders. Whatever the reason, sitting on the beach always helps me to reflect on life most deeply and put me in touch with a depth of spirit unavailable to me in most other places.
Jesus goes outside the house and sit by the sea while a crowd follows him. In the tight indoor space he might have been restrained, but by the water both he and the people could concentrate of the touch of God in their lives. And he told a story to illustrate God's work among them, seeding them with possibility and capacity, waiting for them to be good soil and provide a ground where love can take root. We are invited into this deceptively simply story also, to be ready soil for the abundance of love and compassion in our lives.
Today ask God to help me t do everything in my capacity to be good, healthy soil and to be a caretaker for God's love in this world. May we all invite God's possibilities and capacities to be sown in us so that we might give back to others the abundance of love and forgiveness that had been showered upon us.
Monday, October 24, 2011
“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.” While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12:43-50
An Empty Place
Sometimes after celebrating
when joy has bubbled over laughter
flowed like waterfalls when we danced
in the rain a dangerous quiet comes
and we find ourselves alone.
Sometimes our hearts can plummet
despair, loneliness and pain overwhelm
a dark stillness like cold shatters
our nightly wanderings and nightmares
creep on in.
Sometimes alone we feel abandoned
often in exile we feel punished
away from the smiles of love
we permit ourselves pity
morose and dark we morbidly dwell
in liminal spaces of neither nor.
Too often scrub and empty only
to fill to overflowing again with anxiety
worry, control and obsession
kept from sleeping we darken
even the night shadows.
All the time we are the family
of God who binds our wounds
mends broken hearts paints over
the moldy green envy and greed
replacing complacency with compassion
scarcity with abundance
and selfish with service.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" He said to him, "`You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: `You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: "What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?" They said to him, "The son of David." He said to them, "How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying, `The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet"'? If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?" No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions. Matthew 22:34-46
I am one of those people that does not like taking test and might even have a bit of test anxiety. When I was in school as a child, my mind would go blank and I would find myself sweating and getting a little nauseous. E never felt prepared. Even auditions were tough for me. Years ago, as a young woman, I sang with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and we had to audition to get in. After a few years, they decided that we had to audition every year. My audition was awful and our conductor told me to go sit with my section and we would discuss things later. I was in a deep abyss of anxiety and failure. As we were practicing a fairly tough piece, I felt a slap on the back of my head. "You know this music!" the conductor loudly whispered in my ear. And from then on, I was a member of the chorus.
Jesus was done with testing from one group of clergy when another group decided to test him. They wanted to know the first commandment and he answered them - love God and love your neighbor likewise. And then he turned the tables on them and tested them. In their inability to answer they were driven to leave him alone. They were more focused on the testing than faith, on being right rather than being compassionate and loving. Jesus invites us today to live through our testing, but not to make it about winning, but about love. Are our lives about loving and compassion? Then we know our music and God is with us.
Today I ask God to give me patience with testing of all kinds and to know that the answers to all of life's questions are simpler than we think. Help us know that love is always the right answer, and that God's love is abundant and sure for the end of time.
Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Saturday, October 22, 2011
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. Matthew 12:33-42
One of the things we love to do this time of year is go pick apples. There is something wondrous and amazing about wandering around an apple orchard in the crisp fall air, looking over all the fruit trees. The light and the breeze make the experience bordering on holy. The abundance of fruit and sheer beauty of the orchard and the trees around them turning red and gold can make an average day spectacular. And as it gets close to Halloween and All Saints' Day, the time of year when the veil between the living and the dead is very thin, one is very aware of the liminal quality of life and the tenderness of every day.
Jesus is still being harassed by the religious leaders, who want to argue theology while the people in their care suffer and die. He wants them to understand that their words have power and meaning, that sound carries through time, space and eternity. We are invited to remember that we are known by our fruits - whether we offer words of solace, compassion and forgiveness, or whether we judge and condemn others - we are known by our fruits. And Jesus asks us to use our time, our words, our hands and our gifts for the love and redemption of all, rather than in the quest for winning the argument and being right.
Today I ask God to help me use my all for the good of others. May all that we do and all that we say bring God's love to this very needy and broken world. "May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart, be always acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer."
Friday, October 21, 2011
Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. Matthew 12:22-32
One of the most troubling thing about being a parent is the level of responsibility we have for another vulnerable and needy person. As a mother, I never felt I was ever doing enough for my children, and because of income and other limitations, I often felt inadequate as a parent. Erma Bombeck once wrote, "you know you are a good and successful parent when your kids can pay for their own therapy." I have held onto that bit of wise humor, knowing that being human means we make mistakes all along the way. All we can do is ask our children to forgive us, and tell them how much we love them. Because we do, and our children, the love we have, and forgiveness are all gifts from a loving Creator.
Today Jesus finds himself wrestling with angry religious leaders as he is trying to offer love and healing to a mentally ill, blind and dumb man, someone who is completely needy and vulnerable, who has never had the advantages that the onlookers knew. They are so worried about getting their theology right, that they cannot see and know they are standing in the presence of God in flesh, love made visible and tangible to a broken and hurting world. They were afraid to be wrong, so struck out in anger and fear. Jesus knew how vulnerable they were too, and knew that God would forgive them of all their missteps and cruel words. He wanted them to know that destroying love and God's spirit was a different matter. We are reminded today to remember how willing God is to forgive what we have done. We are simply asked to foster that same love and forgiveness wherever we go.
Today I ask God to hold tenderly and bless all those who are vulnerable and needy today, and bring peace and healing to all who are broken by their own human failings. May we all ask forgiveness where we need it, and seek to foster love and God's presence where ever we find ourselves today. For God, who is perfect parent, who knows our needs before we can ask, looks upon each of us as a beloved child, and nestles us in the warmth of God's healing and forgiving embrace.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all and ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”
I spent most of the day, leaving first thing in the morning to go to a doctor's appointment and evaluation for further back treatment. As he poked and prodded, asking questions and pushing and pulling, I thought of how simultaneously sturdy and fragile the human body is. And how fragile and sturdy our human condition. We are easily bruised when we are vulnerable and prone to hurting others without awareness. The doc I saw was very careful and gentle and I still was quite sore when all was said and done.
Jesus moved away from the political gnarlings of the religious leadership so that he could focus on the needs of the folks in the street. He was meek and gentle with them, tending to their needs, one by one, and not wanting them to make public his presence with them. He focus was on their safety, healing and care, moving them from the limelight, so that he could listen and respond. He spoke to them the words of the prophet, familiar words of comfort and promise - his life the act of birthing justice for all in the world.
Today I pray that I can remember how fragile and needy we all are, and respond to others gently, with healing and justice in every word and deed. May we all act as agents of the loving one who we follow, so that quietly an gently, all may experience justice and healing on our time.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” He went on from there and entered their synagogue. And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. Matthew 12:1-14
When I was a little girl, my sisters would babysit me from time to time. They would threaten to call my father if I was misbehaving, something that would strike terror in my heart. They would pick up the phone and I would hear his voice on the line and knew I was in trouble. Turns out that they were calling a recording. My Dad was enamored with technology and used to record his sermons, and set up a prayer line, where folks could call in, hear a recorded prayer and then leave a message concerning their need for prayer. I often think of that when I am writing this blog, how I have inherited his fascination with technology and try to use what we have for the good of others.
Today, we hear the story of Jesus feeding and healing on the Sabbath. Jesus was taking care of business, taking care of his disciples and the people that came to him in need, and was challenged by the religious leadership. They wanted him to abide by petty rules rather than offer life changing solutions. And when he didn't fulfill their laws, they were furious and plotting. They didn't seem to notice that people were fed and a man made well. They were too caught up in the rules to understand the rule of love, the business we are all called to be in - opening our hearts to others and offering food and healing to all.
Today, I ask God to help me focus on the other and their needs rather than the rules and rightness of today. I ask God to make my hands and heart be ever ready to serve - to feed and to offer love and healing to all who cross my path today. May we all be about God's business in every moment - offering love, healing, food and forgiveness to the people around us today.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 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 who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:25-30
We all carry all sorts of baggage and life can weigh us down in many ways. Dealing with personal health and family health issues has taken a toll on me. I find myself feeling as if I need to take on the present struggles on my own. I guess we are all prone to forgetting we are not alone in the struggles of life. We want to fix what is broken and can be frustrated when the solutions are not forthcoming. Accepting the invitation to rest, when there is so much to do, seems frivolous and somehow wrong. And yet that is exactly what we are invited to do today.
Jesus has been helping his disciples on the road to mission and ministry. He understands their fears and the unreal expectations they put on themselves - just like we do now. We get like fussy children sometimes, and God offers us respite and tender learning and growth, when we are tired from our efforts and worn down from service. And he reminds us that we are never alone, in fact we are yoked to a gentle and lowly savoir, who shoulders our burdens, carries our baggage and invites us to rest and learn - to be renewed in the arms of love.
Today I want to accept that invitation, with open arms and a thankful heart. Not looking at what lies ahead, but rather dwelling in the shared space where love can renew and refresh even the most worn out heart. May we all accept the invitation today, so that our lives might be infused with Christ, and might radiate the love of the most tender and loving Savoir.
Monday, October 17, 2011
“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, 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 at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” Matthew 11:16-24
Some people find Mondays to be a struggle. When I had Mondays off, I found myself tying up all the lose ends from Sunday and would have a hard time really taking the day. Other people, who have weekends off from work, often find it hard to get back into the routine after a few days of enjoying family and friends, taking the time they need to relax and refresh. There are always reasons for not enjoying a given day and avoiding any celebration or social interaction that might remind us of our lack - whether it's sleep or family and any host of other things. We can find excuses for avoiding good times when our hearts are not in it.
Jesus was frustrated with the people he encountered who were so wrapped up in their own little worlds that they could not imagine that God was in their midst doing marvelous things. For whatever reason - their pain, their frustration, their self-image, their guilt - they could not embrace the love that was with them, healing them and renewing the face of their world. They were so broken they did not even know they needed fixing, and they were so lost they thought they knew their way. They could not celebrate the love because it was a threat to their already fragile, delusional existence.
Today I pray that God will help me to celebrate the love that id in our midst, the signs and expressions of God that surround us. May we all, despite our brokenness and pain, rejoice in the abundance of love that is ours and share it with our fellow travelers on the road.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
The Pharisees went and plotted to entrap Jesus in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?" But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, "Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax." And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, "Whose head is this, and whose title?" They answered, "The emperor's." Then he said to them, "Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's." When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away. Matthew 22:15-22
We are enjoying the company of our daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter, Lilly. I have been so aware of the blessings of family, the gifts that are so precious, and that are often so undeserved. The beauty and the joy my children bring to my life are
almost indescribable, and I know that I am rich beyond measure in love and family. Too often we count our merit by what we can do or what we own, and yet we are showered by grace and love and we often take them for granted. And yet, on days like today,after the challenges of the past week, I am reminded of that we belong to God and everything we have and are are incredible gifts from a loving Creator.
Jesus was being tested by the religious leadership. They were scholars and powerful spiritual authority and they were angry at the upstart unknown who seemed to understand God so well. They had spent a lifetime of study and political maneuvering only to be overshadowed by a nobody from Nazareth. And in response to their challenge Jesus asked them for visual aids, did not rise to the angry attack, and invited them to know how they greatly they had been blessed by God.
Today, I am grateful for my loving, incredible family and for all the blessings of friends and fellowship that are everyday in my life. May we, who are showered by blessings, use the gifts we have been given to the blessings of our communities. May we who know all we have is from God, give all we are back to God by loving our neighbors as ourselves.
Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written,“‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’ Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than they he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. Matthew 11:7-15
Going to the Wilderness
He stood speaking about God
gaunt and peculiar eyes fierce
and a mind on fire the messenger
promised God with us
and they shackled him
silenced the vocabulary of love.
They could not silence him
even in death his words rang
electrifying people who ached
for new life, freedom, wholeness
release from their shackles
a vision of God.
The voice of one crying in the wilderness
still chimes in the commotion
of busy streets and hallways
the call to seek freedom and renewal
is not obliterated by our noise.
In the darkness and the wild places
God speaks through unlikely rejects
in our dirty alleys the voice clear
comes from the dirt faced homeless one
prepare they way of the Lord.
Friday, October 14, 2011
When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities. Now when John heard fin prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” Matthew 11:1-6
As we drove up the Garden State parkway yesterday we noticed signs that told us that as of Monday all of the toll lanes will have cameras. I was surprised, I thought all of the toll lanes always had cameras. There seem to be cameras everywhere, no matter how small or large the business, for the sake of security and record keeping, there are cameras installed. We are used to a world where we show our identification and security cameras are the norm. We are accustomed to searches in airports and we even have to show our drivers' license at the doctors office.
John's disciples are sent to check out Jesus to make sure he is the one. They don't collect a picture or some DNA sample like we would now, but rather he is identified by his actions. He is identified by the good works, the healing and the transformation he brings. Jesus' response suggests that to be identified as one of the followers of him, we might want to live a life of service, bringing healing and comfort where it is needed. We need not be famous or renown, just identified with our gifts of service and compassion.
God, let my life be identified with your compassion and your acts of kindness. May my hands and my heart, no matter what befalls me today, be open and ready to serve others. May my identity be wrapped up in the service of others, and through me, see the touch of God in our needy world today.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
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 a person's enemies will be those of his 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 his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person's reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward. Matthew 10:34-42b
It's been raining off and on for two days and the sky has been hanging low and heavy with dense dark clouds. We are surrounded by water and this fall has been particularly wet and stormy. Starting with Hurricane Irene in late August, we have seen an over-abundance of water falling from the sky, puddling everywhere and filling up basements. There are plenty of places that rarely see water, and people who are desperate for water night and day. It might be easy for us here to take water lightly and to not understand its value. Water is essential to life and when water is scarce, everyone suffers.
Jesus talks to the people about the cost and challenges of following him. Jesus knew that truly following him came with costs that are great - divided families, financial and personal challenges, rejection and abuse - and the rewards are likewise great. Acts of love and mercy - a simple cup of cold water - are the signs of a beloved follower, a willing servant of God. What one might take as a simple act, God knows to be valuable and necessary - life and soul saving. We are encouraged to see our brokenness, our lack of peace and the human divisions we ache over, as a part of our ministry, with value in the lack as well as in the abundance.
Today, I ask God to help me to be grateful for the lack as well as the abundance. I pray for strength to be humble and compassionate in the face of challenges. May we all be encouraged in our brokenness, knowing God is using us, in small cups of water, for the healing of the world.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his 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 that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And 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? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 10:24-33
We have a bird feeder in the back yard. It provides hours of viewing, watching the traffic of birds and the various shades, types and sizes of feathered visitors. Since we live in a town that has been designated a bird sanctuary, this time of year we find ourselves overrun with "birders". Many migrating birds stop here for a respite before traveling on to their winter homes, so it is a perfect place to sight many species. I am astounded at the lengths folks will go to observe the birds and reminded how carefully God cares for the smallest and least, and how much beauty and capacity even the smallest creature of creation has been given.
Jesus has sent the group out to minister to the people far and wide. He tells his followers not to fear, that they are held tenderly in God's care. I am sure they were terrified of what lay ahead for them. It is normal and human to be anxious about the road ahead, and to be afraid of being abandoned, attacked and undone. Times were tough then as they are now and many were anxious for the care of themselves and their loved ones. Like the present, we are surrounded by anxieties for the future. And today Jesus speaks directly to each one of us, "Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows."
Today, I ask God to give me the strength to set aside fear and embrace the promises made. I ask God to help us all know that we are prized and loved, cared for by a compassionate and tender Creator, who has our safety and our tomorrows in hand.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes." Matthew 10:16-23
Wise and Innocent
I have known the lashes
the searing pain of hatred
human anger, abuse and shame
but they do not come from God.
I have gone towards home
finding rejection and deceit
hung my head in sorrow as
I headed out the door
knowing I am not alone.
The fashions and winds change
the seasons blossom and fail
the ground can shake and walls
tumble and fall
and God walks with us still.
Judgement and jealousy sick hearts
aching for solace and healing
can strike out in pain
can lash and curse and cry
and God still holds them
in strong arms of love.
We are human and frail
broken by our foolish desires
ravaged by years and neglect
we torture one another
hiding our own pain
and we ache for a creative solution
God's desire for us lingers
long after we have turned away
long after tears and screaming
long after we have tried it all
God comes with comfort and freedom
to remake us in love.
Monday, October 10, 2011
These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, abut go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town. Matthew 10:5-15
A song kept going through my head this morning from my much younger days. I don't know why but I used to sing it all the time. "So take off your thirsty boots and stay for a while, your feet are hot and weary from a dusty mile. And maybe I can make you laugh, maybe I can try, I'm just looking for the evening, the morning in your eye." Eric Anderson wrote as a hymn of solace of sorts for the civil rights workers in the height of the conflict. I learned it from my friends in this little town many long years ago.
Jesus sends his disciples forth and tells them to stay where they are welcomed and to shake the dust off their feet when they are not. Some folks won't welcome ministry, some won't welcome change and prophets, but for those who do, a whole array of gifts and joy awaits them. Ministry is a gift given, a gift to be shared, and those who refuse it, make a choice to refuse. Times change but taking to the road to serve has not. We are all invited to take to the road in order to serve.
Today, I ask God to help me continue on the road, to help me keep these thirsty boots walking forward. Help me God to offer what I have without price. Help me to be grateful for the solace and welcome where I find it. And help us all keep on the road of service today.
Thirsty Boots by Eric Anderson
You've long been on the open road,
You've been sleeping in the rain,
From dirty words and muddy cells
Your clothes are smeared and stained,
But the dirty words and muddy cells
Will soon be hid in shame
So only stop to rest yourself
Till you are off again
So take off your thirsty boots
and stay for a while,
Your feet are hot and weary,
from a dusty mile,
And maybe I can make you laugh,
maybe I can try,
I'm just looking for the evening,
the morning in your eye.
So tell me of the ones you saw
As far as you could see
Across the plain from field to town
A-marching to be free
And of the rusted prison gates
That tumbled by degree
Like laughing children, one by one,
They look like you and me
I know you are no stranger down
The crooked rainbow trails
From dancing cliff-edged shattered sills
Of slandered, shackled jails
For the voices drift up from below
As the walls they're being scaled
Yes, all of this, and more, my friend,
Your song shall not be failed.
Yes, you've long been on the open road
You've been sleeping in the rain
From dirty words and muddy cells
Your clothes are smeared and stained
But the dirty words, the muddy cells,
They'll soon be judged insane
So only stop to rest yourself
'til you are off again.
Sunday, October 9, 2011
Once more Jesus spoke to the people in parables, saying: "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, `Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.' But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, `The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.' Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, `Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, `Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' For many are called, but few are chosen." Matthew 22:1-14
Last evening we went to the fire house for dinner. Several times a year our fire company puts on a spaghetti dinner, or a pancake breakfast, and they move out the engines and set up the tables. We had a lovely dinner and sat with old friends and neighbors. It's not a fancy gathering, but it is a time to laugh together and share stories from our lives. It seems that we have many characters in this little town, probably us among that crowd as well. It's a simple gathering, and there's no entertainment except the joy of being together - simply, it's an occasion not to be missed.
Jesus told the gathered group about God's kingdom by telling this story of a wedding banquet. At first this story has always seemed violent and confusing - would God really expel folks because they were not dressed right? And yet, I want to believe that it is not about clothes at all, but responding to the call with sincerity and humility. We are often too casual about all sorts of important relationships, and God wants us to hear today about how we might want to honor the blessings and the invitations in our lives. Love is not to be missed, and God's love, so precious a gift, is to be honored and above all.
Today, I ask God to help me honor the call in my life, to be grateful for all the expressions of love, and to attend closely to all the blessings in my life. I pray that we won't miss the opportunities for love and fellowship, and that we will take our call to service and love seriously today.
Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Saturday, October 8, 2011
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore spray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. Matthew 9:35-10:4
What if we?
What if we took off the collars
set aside the vestments
and rolled up our sleeves
took up the tools and
went out in the fields?
What if we honored
the migrants and day laborers
the anonymous many
who stock our groaning tables
with the abundance of their toil?
What if we set the table
and the honored guests were
those from the field from the kitchen
from the scrub sinks and the vacuums
the ones that serve silently
and who make our lives ease?
What if we were called to serve
to labor besides the poor
the indigent the rejected
the infirmed and those who ride
the midnight buses?
We have been called by name
we have been given power and abundance
what if we shared that with those
who were really in need?
Friday, October 7, 2011
And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it.” But they went away and spread his fame through all that district. As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him. And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.” Matthew 9:27-34
We spent the day riding across the bay, visiting Delaware and looking at the water from another shore. The ferry ride out was early across a placid bay. The sun was warm and the water was bright with the light. As we enter the breakwater, dolphins were jumping and diving in front of us. As we return, I am amazed how much difference a change in perspective can make. How a different view brings out a whole new vision, new sights and sounds. The trip is less seventeen miles. Sometimes a few miles can make a big difference.
Jesus responded to the people who were in need by healing their vision, by restoring their hearing. He didn't ask them if they were from the right family, the correct sect or from the right side of the tracks. He just made them better, gave them a new lease on life. The religious leaders were disgusted with his lack of discretion. He wanted to make a huge difference in people's lives, giving them the ability to dream big and live for others.
Today, I am grateful for new sight, for healing by a renewal of the mind. A change in venue, a new view, is often needed for us all, especially those of us who try to lead and be faithful. We can get stuck in the rules and miss the opportunities. May we all take time to renew our vision so that we might bring new life to those who are suffering in the shadows, tossed aside for the world cannot find a use for the broken. May we remember that God can and does, and calls us to use our lives for the renewing of others.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. And when Jesus came to the ruler's house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. And the report of this went through all that district. Matthew 9:18-26
Some people love being among a crowd of people and others do not. I am among those who would rather have more personal space than none. I love New York City, love walking in Chinatown, Greenwich Village and all over, but when it comes to making my way through crowds, I get quickly irritated and flustered. People can push and shove without warning. I wasn't always so undone, but when I was carrying my daughters, I found couldn't stand being in crowds anymore. Never have been the same since. One unannounced touch from a stranger and I start coming undone.
Jesus is on his way to help a little girl when he feels a touch in the crowd. A woman who has suffered for so long reaches out and touches his hem, and she is made whole. He stops and tells her how extraordinary her faith is, how she is beloved and forgiven. He calls her daughter, a sign of respect and affection. She is beloved like the little girl of the ruler, the one to whom Jesus is going. She may be a stranger in the crowd but she is no less precious and deserving of healing than the little girl waiting for Jesus' touch in the wealthiest home in the fanciest district in town.
Today I ask God to help me remember that all are deserving of God's love and healing, even those who are pushing and shoving in the crowds of life. May we all have the courage and strength to see the beloved, the daughters and sons of God, in each person we encounter this day.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, "Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wine skins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wine skins, and so both are preserved.” Matthew 9:9-17
We as humans love to judge others, finding fault and disregard others way of life. We who call ourselves faithful can also fall into judgement of others, knowing better than they do what they need and what is good for them. We want so desperately as people to be right, and better than our neighbor that we would pass laws and levy fines for their life style. Watching the recent series on Prohibition, it was enlightening to learn that federal income tax began as a precursor to prohibition, so that the money raised in legitimate sale of liquor would be replaced by a federal income tax. We as a people thought controlling the behavior of others was more prudent than trusting them to regulate themselves.
Jesus called Matthew as a disciple and then went to his home for a meal. Folks of all sorts crowded around to criticize the host and his honored guest. They wanted to be right, and were not afraid to others in the room by their questions. Jesus answered them straight-fowardly, honestly and with the same intensity that they were grilling him. He wanted them to understand that God does not limit love or compassion. God does not call and reach out for the rule mongers, the rigid, the ones who think themselves right. God seeks out those who know their need, and who want to be closer to the heart of God.
Today, I pray that I can be honest and straight forward in my need of God, not worrying about what others do or think of me, but caring only that I am on the road. May we not pass judgement of others this day, but know that each is sought by God, and that God is reaching out to those who will voice their need this day.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men. Matthew 9:1-8bing
In the past few weeks we have been dealing with a lot of doctors and other medical professionals. Mark had knee surgery in August and I am anticipating a back procedure this fall. When a person is involved in a long term illness or recovery, it is very normal to lose heart at some point. Either the pain or the struggle get overwhelming. It can seem easier to accept the situation and do nothing than struggle for a solution. It is the faith of others, at these times, which allow us to heal and seek God's healing in the midst of pain and frustration. It is the visible faith of others that sees us through.
Jesus comes home to find a complicated reception. And in the midst of the political and religious turmoil, he is presented with a paralyzed man on a stretcher. The man's family and friends are not willing to give up on him, despite the fact that his situation is grave. He knows he will never walk or live any kind of life again. Their faith is greater than his fear and Jesus can work with that. Despite the challenges from the religious leaders and the problems in his home town, a man get up and walks home, taking his bed with him. A man who moments before could do absolutely nothing for himself and knew his life to be over. We are reminded today that we can be those of visible faith, in rough political and religious times, and healing and solutions will come forth.
Today, I ask God to help me be one of visible faith for others, and when I stumble, to ask others to be faithful on my behalf. May we all be reminded that we need one another. We are not alone, and when our faith lags, we are invited to seek the company of others, who can be faith until our healing is made manifest.
Monday, October 3, 2011
And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” Now a herd of many pigs was feeding at some distance from them. And the demons begged him, saying, “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs.” And he said to them, “Go.” So they came out and went into the pigs, and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the waters. The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, especially what had happened to the demon-possessed men. And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region. Matthew 8:28-34
Pigs have a habit of being considered dirty and repulsive. We use the term pig to describe the overweight, the lecherous, the gluttonous or those who abuse power and wealth. Being a pig seems to be a universally understood term of dismissal, and we find children taunting others by making pig noises. The meat of the pig was forbidden food to the Jews, the food that only the ignorant and the gentiles would eat. Class, culture and religion have ways of ostracizing certain people, and making them a caricature rather than fully human. To be a pig is to be less than human.
Jesus has calmed a storm and now is faced with two men who are possessed by demons. He sends the demons into the pigs who hurl themselves off the cliffs, to which the locals respond by telling Jesus to get out of town. Doesn't seem like one of the most successful moments of his ministry. Early on in his ministry a very human Jesus was profoundly influenced by his race, culture and class. He has some overcoming to do in his walk, embodying God in human form. We all have challenges in our walk to follow Jesus. And I find some comfort knowing that even Jesus began with the ignorance and privilege of his community, and had to rely on God to help him see everyone as fully human, everyone as the beloved of God.
Today I ask God to help me to set aside judgement, so that I can see all people as beloved. I pray that God will open my eyes to the beauty in each face encountered, the need in each expression and the sacredness in all of humanity today.
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Jesus said, "Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, `They will respect my son.' But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, `This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.' So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" They said to him, "He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time." Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the scriptures: `The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord's doing, and it is amazing in our eyes'? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls." When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet. Matthew 21:33-46
Our little town has a freshwater lake only blocks from the ocean. Because of this, we see all sorts of birds that migrate stop over here before they cross the Delaware Bay heading south this time of year. In the spring they make a return visit with us. We also are the stopping off and resting place of the monarch butterflies as prepare to cross the bay en masse. They're here, massing for their southward journey. They are remarkable, these fragile beauties, blessed with an amazing navigation system and an internal drive. They knew to whom they belong and where they are going. When they are here, the town is theirs and they know it. Long before people settled here, dividing up property and the like, the monarchs came to a familiar place, a home that was their inheritance, their temporary shelter and home.
Jesus tells another story to illustrate how we humans assume we are in charge and that we have rights to places and things that are not ours. We played the game, "finders-keepers, losers-weepers", as children and have carried it forward to adult practices. It seems almost heroic when someone outsmarts another in business and steals their clients and ideas. And yet Jesus reminds us that no matter how we self-delude, God is in charge, and we are mere caretakers and temporary residents. We can do great harm to ourselves and to others by assuming we own what we have been given as gifts, as caretakers of creation.
Today, I ask God to help me see, in the beauty and fragility that surrounds us, the imprint of the Creator, the touch of God in the smallest creature and the lowliest of persons. May I know God today in the rejected and overlooked, those passing through and the passed over. May our hearts be tuned to see the beloved in the face of strangers today.
Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Saturday, October 1, 2011
Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” Matthew 8:19-27
We live in a world of wind and sea. The summer is gone along with the life guards, the noise ans the crowds. What we are left with is wind, sand and sea. As we move deeper into fall, the winds are more constant, unrelenting, and the water, which was once comfortingly warm, is growing colder by the minute. I've been in the water this week, and will continue until it is too cold for me to stand, but it is no longer the draw to this place. It is quiet, and beautiful, but also exposed and vulnerable. The wind and the water which were summer friends can quickly become our downfall and our danger.
Jesus talks to his followers about the cost of following him. If they are looking for stardom and comfort this is not the road for them. If they want to have many friends and be influential, this is not the way to go. But if they want to be broken open for love and hang around with the one that can speak to the wind and the sea, then follow him. We all have to make a decision about following. Are we in for the happy, easy times, or the vulnerability and humility? If we following Jesus, we have to take the whole road, the whole way, stormy or bright, summer and winter.
Today, I ask God to help me to follow on the way. To the dark and stormy places, to the scary hard rejections, and through the tumult of the wind and the seas. Help me to rely on him who speaks to the wind and sea as family, the one who has known and loved me since before I was born, and who has marked me for life as a follower.