Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween - Consider the Ravens

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” Luke 12:13-31 

We've lived in both Baltimore, Maryland and Sitka, Alaska, where ravens play a big roll in daily life. In Baltimore, they are forever linked with Edgar Allen Poe, and now the football franchise. They represent the dark, haunting, self-effacing and tough Baltimore that is just hiding around the corner. In Sitka, the ravens are everywhere, ruling the town. They are social, working together to get what they want. They are vocal and complain mightily if humans do something they don't like. They are beautiful and strong in both cases,menacing and comical in the same moment. Very like us humans.

Jesus invited his friends to quit worrying about the stuff of life. Every worry keeps us away from the love and power of God. And it is surely easy to say, and easy to hear, but always much harder for us to do. We easily get fearful and lonely, and find ourselves in moments of terror and panic. We are bombarded by ads and messages that tell us we are never doing enough to secure our lives. But on this day, when the world is askew, children are allowed to knock on strangers' doors, and when the distance between living and dead seems almost permeable, may we let go of worry, and be childlike in the face of a extraordinarily loving God.  The Creator, who knows our weakness as well as our needs and promises to come home and dwell with us.

Today, I ask God to help me be childlike in my faith. May the worries of the world drain off, and may we find delight and wonder in neighbors and strangers alike. May we laugh at our fears and worries, trusting that God will provide our needs. And may we welcome and embrace every ghoul, goblin and fairy that comes our way, knowing that even these are blessings from heaven.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

More Value

When Jesus went outside, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile toward him and to cross-examine him about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.
Meanwhile, when the crowd gathered by the thousands, so that they trampled on one another, he began to speak first to his disciples, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, that is, their hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops.
“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; but whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say.” Luke 11:53—12:12 

More Value

The price tag hung taunting
we could not pay it ever
what we have will not buy goods
the good we have will give life.

We are more so valued than sparrows
God keeps eyes on these little ones
we are so more wanted and desired
and yet we toss each other away.

We could fight all the right battles
and lose our very souls to darkness
we must walk these dark alleys
giving every step to the Holy.

We are more than sparros
more than conquerors and pirates
more than royalty and poverty
we are the children of the living God.

As darkness descends we fear not
for we never walk in the steps taken
steps that love have suffered for us
a journey that is always towards home.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Key of Knowledge

While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dine with him; so he went in and took his place at the table. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first wash before dinner. Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you.
“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honor in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it.”
One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too.” And he said, “Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. So you are witnesses and approve of the deeds of your ancestors; for they killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ so that this generation may be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation. Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.” Luke 11:37-52

When our daughter Ariel was struggling in school after first grade, they had us come meet her second grade teacher. Ariel was to be put in a special needs class and we were anxious for our bright little one. Her new teacher, Dr. Rainwater, welcomed us and then looked at Ariel. She said, "Ariel, you are very bright. I am sorry you struggled. There is nothing wrong with you. It is my job this year to find the key that unlocks that amazing brain." As the tears rolled down our cheeks, we nodded as Ariel grinned from ear to ear, knowing she was going to have a great learning experience. 

Jesus is invited to dinner by the high and mighty. They think themselves clever and in charge of all things. He does not mince words but tells them just how unfaithful they have been. They have kept knowledge and wealth for themselves and use it to punish others who are less fortunate. They, who have everything, have abused everyone. This is one of the times when we see Jesus most riled up. He cannot abide such abuse of the weak. God invites us who have the good fortune to gain knowledge, understanding and position, to remember that each is a gift from God. A gift that comes with the expectation that we share all of our blessings, helping everyone around us.

Today I ask God to help me give freely and love without limits. May we all share the blessings we have been given, opening doors to others who have been shut out. May we remember when we were needy and respond to those around us with the compassion we desire, now and always.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Love One Another

Jesus said to his disciples, "I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
"If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world-- therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, `Servants are not greater than their master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. It was to fulfill the word that is written in their law, `They hated me without a cause.'
"When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning." John 15:17-27

I was fortunate to have an amazing group of friends during my awkward teenage years. We lived in many different places, but when summer began, we would cluster together and spend many hours together. We played volleyball after supper until the light gave out. We played guitars and cards until we gave out. We were awkward kids against the world. It was wonderful to be loved unconditionally by people other than parents. These folks remain my friends although we have gone to different places. I will always be grateful for that time and their love.

Jesus is preparing his friends for the changing times. They had spent heady days, traveling together, being welcomed and wanted. They saw miracles, and hope restored. But as everything does, things were about to change and the world was to grow very violent. He was encouraging them to cling to one another, and to make love their mission, despite all that would come against them. We are invited, in these changing time to cling to love, and to one another, trusting that God will pave the road ahead.

Today I ask God to make my life a mission of love. May we live to love others, and in doing so give the future over to our loving Creator. May we be beacons of hope as we love, in this world of violence and despair, trusting that God is busily making all things new.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Tough Questions

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
My mother has often said she keeps a list of questions for God. I have never seen this list but we have discussed some of the questions that make up her list. She really wants to know why any parent should have to suffer the loss of a child. When my sister Peggy died of cancer at the age of 42, my parents were staggering and shattered for a long time. She is such a faithful Christian woman, I wonder what questions she is formulating for God as she sits in a wheelchair, semi-paralyzed and fully dependent in a nursing home at 91. She asked me after she fell why God didn't take her then. She is ready and she has her list.

The Pharisees either thought that the Sadducees gave up too easy, or were spiritual whimps compared to them. They take a run at Jesus as a group. Nice behavior for religious, God fearing folks! Jesus calmly answers their questions then asks them a question or two in return. They were stumped and silenced from then on. We have a loving God who invites us to ask questions and to seek answers. And we also live this life shrouded in mystery. God's time and timing is not ours. God invites us to draw near with compassion and love and to worry about loving our neighbors and serving others. In the service of others, we will find all the answers we need.

Today I ask God to help me trust in the midst of mystery and questions. May we, when the road ahead seems very unstable and unclear, trust in God's love working for us. May we get working for the love of others and know that we will have answers in the midst of our service.

The Collect
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 25, 2014

Teach Us to Pray

Jesus  was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.”
And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:1-13 

Teach Us To Pray

We are bent in anxiety and strain
our toil has taken it's toll
nodding off instead of listening
falling into darkness instead of prayer.

The world is dark and fragile
wet leaves swirl around our heads
our thin blankets paper like in the wind
we hope to make it through the night.

O Lord how do the homeless and outcast pray?
when the world steps over and ignore us
when we are shunned and dispersed
sent away from away from the groaning talbes.

Lord teach us to pray when the tide rises
when hate becomes normal and fear abides
when the deep bitter cold swirls round and round
and when we have no breath left to sing.



Friday, October 24, 2014

Martha, Martha

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”  Luke 10:38-42

I am sometime Martha, and sometimes Mary. There is always more work to be done. Everyday I look around and see the things I left undone yesterday and grieve my inability to get everything done. And yet, when I take time to delight in God's creation, when I take time to draw near to beloved family and friends, when I take time to listen to the still small voice, I find I am renewed and restored for the work ahead.

Jesus is visiting with beloved friends. His dear friend Martha is overworked and her sister, who by all rights should be helping out, is sitting soaking in every word of Jesus.  Martha's complaint is heard by Jesus. But instead of ordering Mary to do her "womanly" duties, he invites Martha to take a rest, to sit and be fed as well. Sometimes we think that the tasks are most important, but God reminds us today that the relationships we have take precedence always.

Today I ask God to help me take the time that God provides, and to take time with others, trusting that we will find God in our midst. May we all choose the better part, sitting with the words and people of God, soaking in the love and strength we need for the road ahead.