Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Human Heart

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 said to them, "You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.' But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, 'Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban' (that is, an offering to God)—then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this."
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."
When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. He said to them, "Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?" (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, "It is what comes out of a person that defiles. 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 7:1-23
Some of the deepest wounds I have come from the people I loved and trusted. Some of the deepest wounds I have inflicted have come to those I was closest to. We often lash out at those we love, and envy and pride made us do ugly things. Jealousy can drive us to betray and make someone's life miserable. The worst hurts, the one's that last the longest come from a festering cruelty that was born in a jealous, angry heart. I have found that I people who make me angry are often those who carry some truth, and I must face the truth and ask forgiveness all the time.
The religious leaders were testing Jesus and chastising him for not following all the dietary laws. He knew among the religious hierarchy in front of him,  there were  those who were plotting against another, those who were jealous and proud, and those who were festering with anger and self-deceit. Like any other leadership group with many type-A personalities, they were struggling to get ahead. Some were willing to climb over others to do so. But Jesus saw through to their hearts, as he sees through to ours. God invites us to examine our hearts today, putting aside those things that would pollute and destroy our ability to love.
Today, I ask God to help me examine mt heart, and do the hard work of letting go, cleaning house and forgiving others. May we set aside all of our ego needs, so that the world might be exposed, through us, to the perfect heart of God.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

In The Boat

When evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and Jesus was alone on the land. When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the sea. He intended to pass them by. But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid." Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.Mark 6:47-54

I have been home on vacation and enjoying the luxury of taking my time and enjoying my family. We got up early this morning to pick blueberries before the day got too oppressive. Tonight I will wait until the cool of the evening and make jam. I know I will feel my mother's presence with me, since she was the ultimate jelly-maker. She was truly famous for her jelly, especially her beach plum jelly. I have to get in the boat with her, go ahead and face the storms, and all the mistakes that it takes. I have to jump in and trust God to make it work despite my humanity and capacity to sink many cooking voyages.

Jesus has made people full who were hungry. There was miracle upon miracle but the disciples didn't get it, or chose not to believe what they had seen. Despite all of the evidence they still thought they were completely on their own. When the storm came up, they were surely feeling abandoned by Jesus. These skilled watermen gave into their basest fears - that God would abandon them in their troubling hour. God did more than prove them wrong. The son of God walked across the water and calmed both the storms and their fears. He climbed in with them, not leaving bereft but thrilled.

Today I ask God to help me navigate as a true believer. Let us trust that we are not on these rough seas alone, but that God is walking towards us and climbing in with us.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Come, Rest Awhile

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while." For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, "This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat." But he answered them, "You give them something to eat." They said to him, "Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?" And he said to them, "How many loaves have you? Go and see." When they had found out, they said, "Five, and two fish." Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And all ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.
Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After saying farewell to them, he went up on the mountain to pray. Mark 6:30-46 

Come, Rest Awhile

A vacation putting feet up moment
needed wanted craved and scheduled
yet never alone and solo in this world
need and hopelessness always follow.

We can take time for ourselves, we must
see the need around us and still respond
sneak up to the mountain to pray
and find our true rest in the arms of God.

Some resorts are built on the backs of the poor
many built so we cannot see the abuse of the needy
when quaint and down to earth are buzz words
we can know that cruelty is not far afield.

Pay the child a decent wage and the mother her due
send for the doctor when things go bad
and hold back nothing that is ever necessity
and then we can rest awhile in this place.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Do Not Be Afraid

 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid." Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going. John 6:16-21

This reading is from the lectionary readings from Sunday July 26. The day just got away with family and reconnecting. Today, this passage is worth another look. We are people who witness a great deal of love and miracles in our lives and as quickly turn to fear and scarcity. Every time we ask God to provide, we are remarkably cared for. Yet, we turn to despair quickly and feel like this time we will surely be abandoned. I know myself that I can be easily afraid for money or my future, when throughout God has provided more than enough and always just at the right time.

The disciples had just witnessed a miracle. Thousands were fed with a little boy's lunch. Somehow very little became very much in the hands of the Messiah. The crowd was pressing, Jesus withdrew and the disciples got on a boat. The boat was a most familiar and comfortable setting for them. When the storm comes up, although they had most likely been through many, they quickly panicked and turned to despair. When Jesus arrived, walking on the water, they were even more afraid. These men, who had witnessed miracles in abundance, healing and the expulsion of spirits, were screaming like small children in fear. We are all capable of becoming scared of the present or our future. The good news of God today is that we are loved, protected and provided for - we are children of a living and active God. We need never be afraid.

Today I ask God to help me walk without fear. Despite all the questions before us today, may we trust that God has a solution for the dilemma already in the works.  May we live with the joy and fearlessness of  beloved children who trust that everything they need will be provided in time.

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, July 25, 2015


Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea - for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. Mark 1:14-20 
I was thinking about  my experience in Alaska and how fishing was essential to understanding Tlingit life in SE Alaska. The people's identity is wrapped up in fishing. It is a multi-generational experience. It involves both genders. Everyone participates in some way. Every part of what is recovered is often used, from bones for fish hooks to skins for skin bags. The nets and boats are a small part of the life. The smokers and the weavers, the story tellers and the cooks. This life includes everyone and everyone is called to the edge of the water.
Jesus comes to the edge of the water and calls fishermen to follow him. These men were people who fished for generations. Fishing was in their blood, in their bellies and in their identities. Fishing was in their wives and in their mothers as well as their children and grandchildren. Fishing was who they were. Jesus calls them away from everything they know. They go away with him, to brave a new calling. They take their complete selves with them and never stop being fishermen. God invites us to follow, leaving nets behind, maybe, but bringing our full selves with us as we go.
Today I ask God to help me bring my full self to all I am called to do and be. May we know God as the source of our lives and bring all of ourselves to the journey ahead.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Other Side

They came to the other side of the lake, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain; for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; and he shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.’ For he had said to him, ‘Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!’ Then Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He replied, ‘My name is Legion; for we are many.’ He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding; and the unclean spirits begged him, ‘Send us into the swine; let us enter them.’ So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the lake, and were drowned in the lake.
 The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came to see what it was that had happened. They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid. Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it. Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighbourhood. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him. But Jesus refused, and said to him, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.’ And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed. Mark 5:1-20

Getting to the other side. I often find myself waiting for the other side, the end of a long week of struggle, waiting to get the storms behind me and rest awhile. I am often profoundly frustrated when getting to the other side just means more challenges to deal with, more things that only prayer and faith can solve. We want to believe there is an end point, a greener pasture , a place of calm and repose. And God is often bringing through the worst so that when we get to the the other side, we can care for those who are struggling more than we were.

The disciples have lived through a harrowing night which Jesus slept through. He calmed the violent storm much to their amazement. And the joyous arrival was immediately interrupted by the desperation of the possessed man. Overwhelmed with internal demons the man was terrorizing himself and his whole community. The legion was exorcised but not before they took the whole herd down with them. The welcomed guests became suspect. And yet in all of this God made the broken whole, ended the terror and amazed the whole community. Nothing would be the same after this adventure for the man, his community and for the disciples. God can use the terrors of the night and transform them into a place of liberation.

I ask God to keep me ever aware of the possibility of healing and liberty for even the most broken and imprisoned. May the storms of our lives help us welcome the new possibilities that God has promised to bring about as we move on following Jesus.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Mary Magdalene

Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, `I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"; and she told them that he had said these things to her.  John 20:11-18

She was a woman weeping. Her whole world had collapsed in a few short days  She was a woman weeping with a loss too deep for words. All the love that had defined her, given her direction, set her free, and joyously allowed her to serve - all was gone. As she approached the tomb, insults were heaped upon her already broken heart. The tomb had been defiled, the and her teacher's body stolen,  taken from the place of final rest. After all that terror was there to be no rest, no repose? Mary, the fallen woman, society's reject, this scarlet woman witnessed the resurrection and was to announce it to the others. The lowly woman of no worth was the herald of God's incredible love for the world.

Today we celebrate Mary Magdalene, the woman many have speculated about, many have written fiction about, and a woman we know really very little about. We do know she was there at the tomb and carried, alone or with the other women, the wondrous tale of Jesus' resurrection. The disciples would first say she was mad with grief. She also stands as a icon for all of us. She was completely broken and her sins widely known. And Mary was forgiven and loved, redeemed by the Savior of the world. She reminds us that none of us are too far gone, too broken, too foolish or too far from God. God's love is reaching to us now, reaching through our tears and terrors to show us new life.

Today, I pray that I can remember the witness of Mary Magdalene, who shouts the good news down through the centuries. He is risen and among us. God is among us. May we live this day with the knowledge of God's long reach, reaching each of us who have wandered and is drawing us home.