Sunday, August 30, 2015

Clean Hands

Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?" He said to them, "Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,
    'This people honors me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me;
    in vain do they worship me,
    teaching human precepts as doctrines.'
You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition."
Then he called the crowd again and said to them, "Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."  Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

We are visiting with my mother-in-law for several days. She is notorious for asking whether folks had washed their hands. She's a real stickler about it and we often joke around about her cleanliness bordering on OCD. She is a pharmacist by training and knows all too well how sick people can get when they don't wash their hands. We attended church with her last night at Immaculate Conception and her priest talked about the challenges of a keeping a clean heart. Washing hands is relatively easy. Ridding ourselves of our selfishness, judgmental attitudes and destructive behaviors are much harder. No matter how much soap we use, we cannot clean our hearts. We need God's help for that.

The faith leaders wanted to find fault in Jesus and his followers. The disciples didn't keep the traditional ways of their elders. They followed Jesus and took seriously the need to be humble and live a simple, shared life. We are invited by God to be like those early followers of Jesus. We are invited to cleanse our hearts, to live humbly and seek God's help with all our trials and tribulations. We can wash our hands, but we are also invited to wash out those things and behaviors that keep us from relationship with God and our neighbor.

Today I ask God to help me cleanse my heart and seek forgiveness from those I have injured, May our work be that of seeking God and neighbor, living simply and humbly with all we encounter today.

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Conflict in the Garden

Immediately, while Jesus was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. Then they laid hands on him and arrested him. But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.” All of them deserted him and fled.
A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked. Mark 14:43-52 
We are visiting with my 89 year old mother-in-law in Western Pennsylvania. She is feisty and active, still driving and getting around. She has been a widow  for almost 30 years. After 40 years I have learned to navigate the situation pretty well. Families are complicated, particularly when couples come together from very different  back grounds. Families can be hard on each other, even when trying to be welcoming and nice, judgement and misunderstanding can happen. The family garden can be a scary place, and yet we are invited to go, to seek God in the midst of confusion and contradictions.
Jesus is betrayed and the responses from the disciples are varied and complicated. Hours before they sat as a family and now they were torn asunder as Jesus was arrested. The high drama caused more violence and fear, folks fleeing and striking out. We humans often respond to complicated situation by fleeing and getting violent. God invites us to seek yet another way, the way of inviting God to finish the drama, God to finish the action.
Today I ask God to help me be patient with every one and every thing. May the conflicts we face invite us to seek God's completion, God's understanding of the challenges and God's completion of the drama we are in.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Last Meal Together

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, Jesus's disciples said to him, "Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?" So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, "Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, 'The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?' He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there." So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.
When it was evening, he came with the twelve. And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me." They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, "Surely, not I?" He said to them, "It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born."
While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, "Take; this is my body." Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."
When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Mark 14:12-26
Since losing my Mom I have thought often about her great joy in having many people around the table and filling them with good food. It made her very happy and we spent many countless hours around our dining room table with family, friends and a few trouble makers too. She appreciated people who appreciated simple, good food, and was not fussy about who joined us at the table. The more the merrier she thought and loved having her family and friends gathered together.
We all know the last supper, depicted in so many works of art, and recalled on Sundays as we share communion. It always depicts the twelve and Jesus alone. I am convinced, by everything said by him before, that there were many more folks around that table, including a couple women like my Mom, enjoying the cooking and taking it all in. No meal is an isolated event but rather a collection of folks who prepare and serve, as well as those who sit down and are served. Jesus invited us to come to a very complicated table, with the goodhearted and the deceitful as well. 
Today I ask God to help me enter into the complicated tables of my life with the joy and hopefulness my mother taught me. May we all remember that there is no perfect table, but rather a welcome seat among the poor and lame, the joyful and the sad, the gentle and the cruel. God sits at table with us when we open our hearts to others.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

One Alabaster Jar

It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; for they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.”
While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”
Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him. Mark 14:1-11 

One Alabaster Jar
The days had tumbled by too fast
she had held back her heart too long 
the daily tasks had consumed too much
she needed to break open the alabaster jar.

There was nothing she could give that was enough
nothing she could do to repay him in kind
not a single thing could make up for the gift
of love from a broken alabaster jar.

One alabaster jar of fine perfume
the whole room overcome with exotic aroma
the rich and poor stopped in their tracks
as love poured from the open jar.

A full heart and a face full of tears
everything washed over the teacher's head
love from above had been the gift and sign
creations loveliest gift poured back again.

Love medicine is divine and grounded
tears and laughter, a meal and a song
the hard work of loving is a priceless endeavor
and we will remember her for all lives long.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Keep Awake

Jesus said, "From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
"But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake." Mark 13:28-37 
I have to admit that I am one of those people who can sleep on a plane and many other places. I like sleeping, the comfy, cozy, drowsy world that doesn't demand much at all. When I was carrying my youngest, her older sisters wouldn't allow me on the couch because they knew I would fall asleep immediately. Some people struggle to fall asleep at night. I struggle to wake and definitely shouldn't be talked to without coffee in me. 
Jesus continues to prepare his disciples for a life without him. They want magic and he advises them to be grown ups. He tells them that love takes courage, persistence and paying attention. There are no magic little creatures that are going to sweep in a fix the messes we have made. And yet, God is always with us, giving us the strength and courage we need to face the tasks ahead. And God is also inviting us to take rest when we need it and care for ourselves so we can be strong for others.
Today I ask God to help me see what is around me. May we all respond to the call and direction of the Creator. May we be ready and awake when called upon today.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Built on the Rock

Jesus said, "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.
"Why do you call me `Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I tell you? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house." Luke 6:43-49

I have spent my life building sand castle and watching the wash away. I have spent thousands of hours as my children built sand castles that disappeared with the tide. I love the sand and the ocean and feel they are an essential part of my being. And I also know how necessary it is to be grounded in faith and love. I come from a long line of faithful people.I am blessed to have an incredibly faithful and loving family and group of friends. I know that when I am overwhelmed I can lean on others who will help me through. They show me what it is to be founded on rock solid, not moving, going nowhere kind of love.

Jesus is talking to his disciples about taking on the challenge of faithfulness and love. We can be selfish and shallow, lazy and self-serving or we can be faithful and grounded, loving and serving. One is the easy way and one is a daily challenge. God invites us to take on the daily challenge of love, a love which does the hard work of being consistent, building for the future, securing an safe place for all refugees and making enough so others may also thrive.

Today I ask God to help me be a strong and faithful presence for others. May our lives be so grounded in our Creator and our love so evident that others might find refuge and safety too.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Difficult Teaching

Jesus said, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever." He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.  When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?" But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, "Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father."
 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." John 6:56-69

We have had the great joy of a visit from a long time friend and her grandson. We've been friends for nearly 40 years. It was a delight to sit an visit until the wee hours, talking and laughing, remembering old times and sharing the challenges of our lives. Being parents and grand parents, there was much hard ship to share. There were tons of blessings and successes too.  Living life for the ones we love and offering love to the broken and needy, we are challenged every day. Loving is difficult, disciplining and training up children is difficult, helping grown children is forever challenging and sharing our stories always lightens the load.

Jesus was telling his disciples things they did not want to hear. They thought following God and loving others should be easy. We all want it easy but truly loving is hard work. We have to forfeit our fake dreams and become our real selves. We have to put aside the fantasy of perfect parenting and live into full blown tough reality of loving always, especially when it is hard. God invites us to see our challenges as part of following, part of the work that is God's and ours to share.

Today I ask God to help me live every day girded for the the work of love. May we all live in the service of others, knowing our work is loving others beyond the daily hurdles, struggles and grave disappointments.