Saturday, February 23, 2019

Measure for Measure

Seventh Sunday After Epiphany
February 24, 2019

Jesus said, "I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless
 those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer 
the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.
 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for
 them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who
 love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even 
sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that
 to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do 
good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be 
children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful,
 just as your Father is merciful.
"Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.
 Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed 
down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will 
be the measure you get back." Luke 6: 27-38

We live in a time where everything can and will be measured. Folks walk around wearing
devices that count their steps, their calorie intake and monitor their sleeping, and the beats of
 our hearts. Our smartphones can measure distance for us, monitor our children, our houses,
our refrigerator's contents, and give us direction.  We collect and measure because we think it
makes us feel safe, in control and winning at the numbers. And yet, so often, we are feeling 
empty and isolated, brimming over with fear and anxiety about tomorrow.

Jesus continues his teaching from what some call the sermon on the plain, on the level place,
as the writer of Luke puts it. He has been turning the order of the world on it's head. He invites
the people gathered to know love by sharing it, fullness through feeding others, generosity by
being generous, forgiveness through forgiving and healing by healing relationships. For that is 
how God is, and how God is truly known. No wealth, security or power will ever draw us close
to God, or give us the peace we crave. We are invited to act as God's children and we will be
know the bounty of God's generous and unending love.

Today, I ask God to help me, one day at a time, to love, give, forgive and be merciful in all 
things and with all people. May we be all live as those who are loved beyond measure, giving
all that we have so others might know and see God's love in our offerings.

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy 
Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all 
virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your
 only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for
 ever. Amen.

Small Cooper Coins

While Jesus was teaching in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Messiah is the son of David? David himself, by the Holy Spirit, declared,

‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.”‘

“David himself calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?” And the large crowd was listening to him with delight.

As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” Mark 12:35-44

Small Copper Coins

What I have is never enough
supplies run out so quickly
the end of the month is hunger
shame comes in great abundance.

What I have is never enough
yet God has given me this breath
blessed me with a sweet family
surrounded me with great beauty.

What I have is never enough
yet I am grateful for this day
grateful to walk and worship
happy to be counted as living.

What I have is never enough
yet God is always abundance
love is an overflowing stream
lifting this boat to safe harbor.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Not Far

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that Jesus answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question. Mark 12:28-34 
There s something about being near those we love. The sounds of their laughter and conversation in the kitchen, the simple words and playful ways, seems to make everything brighter. In the deepest of winters, when the warms days seem far off, to be nestled close, snug tight inside with loving family, is the closest to being in the presence of God. 
A serious scribe drew close to Jesus. He had observed how well Jesus answered the religious leaders who wanted to trip him up. He  drew away from the arguments of the day and asked Jesus what was most important. Love of God and neighbor was the answer. And with that answer, Jesus also named the man as being close to God. The man honored love of God and love of neighbor. If we want to be close to God, we must simply love God and love our neighbor. Daily.
Today, I ask God to help me draw near to God by loving God and loving my neighbors. May we all keep our tasks simple as this. We will love God and love our neighbors every day, in every possible moment.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Death and Taxes

Then they sent to Jesus some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said. And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.” And they brought one. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Jesus said to them, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were utterly amazed at him.

Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that ‘if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.’ There were seven brothers; the first married and, when he died, left no children; and the second married her and died, leaving no children; and the third likewise; none of the seven left children. Last of all the woman herself died. In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had married her.”

Jesus said to them, “Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.” Mark 12:13-27

Death and Taxes

We wring our hands in fear
I fear we do not live enough
clinging to our self made prisons
arguing into the deepest night.

We are here to live so fully
no matter how limited we are
to dance and sing, to embrace
this our inheritance, our gift.

The end is but a passing on
a different life without bounds
without the taxes in this life
no gravity, no clinging dust.

So let us be those who live now
in this wild and imperfect place
who pay our dues in loved shared
who own eternity with this joy.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Rejected Stone

Again Jesus and the disciples came to Jerusalem. As he was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to him and said, “By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?” Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin? Answer me.” They argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘Of human origin’?”—they were afraid of the crowd, for all regarded John as truly a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
Then he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built a watchtower; then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard. But they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. And again he sent another slave to them; this one they beat over the head and insulted. Then he sent another, and that one they killed. And so it was with many others; some they beat, and others they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this scripture:
‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes’?”
When they realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowd. So they left him and went away. Mark 11:27—12:12 
When I studied curriculum development, many years ago, the professor asked a critical question. "What are we intentionally leaving out and why?" That question has always stayed with me, always wondering what I was choosing to leave out, what I was ignoring and my motivation for it. Too often the answers were motivated by discomfort and fear. I often leave out what I don't want to face.
Jesus, teaching by parable, tells the story of the vineyard tenants, who think they own the place. They leave out what they don't want to face. They don't own the vineyard. This story makes the religious leaders uncomfortable because they didn't own the temple or the faith, but they ran it as if they did. An important parable for all of us in church leadership. Whatever we do, we can never behave as if this ministry, the buildings, or the church, is ours. We, the ministry and everything we do belong to God. We are invited to live like respectful tenants today, grateful for our livelihoods and the role we have to play.
Today, I ask God to help me remember to face the discomfort and fear, knowing I am not in charge. May we daily turn over the work and ministry to God, so that we, and those we serve, can be truly blessed.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Prayers and Curses

On the following day, when they came from Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.

Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written,

‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’?
But you have made it a den of robbers.”

And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.

In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. Then Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

“Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11:12-26
Prayers and Curses - A Morning Song

Twisted inside with fear and rage
we wrap tight the small hurts
we cling to the ancient betrayals
inflicting our pain on yet others.

Let us unbind the weary sorrowing
let us untie ourselves from our pain
burning the remnants with sage
lifting our faces to forgiveness.

A long ago childhood memory
becomes the seeds of savage revenge
our losses so unresolved and deep
become the beds where we find no rest.

Let us unbind the weary sorrowing
let us untie ourselves from our pain
burning the remnants with sage
lifting our faces to forgiveness.

When blinded by this kind of ache
we can snare the wretched unsuspecting
we can recapture the tortured souls
and tear up their gentle eternity.

Let us unbind the weary sorrowing
let us untie ourselves from our pain
burning the remnants with sage
lifting our faces to forgiveness.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Looking Around

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.'” They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve. Mark 11:1-11 
Too often, I can miss what is most important when I get distracted by what other people are doing or saying. I can be swept up by the excitement or anxiety of the day and not notice was what really going on. I often reflect after the fact and wish I had said or done something completely different. There is often a small opportunity that can change everything.
Mark's Gospel is very sparse compared with the other Gospels, and it was written first. The writer thinks it is very important that Jesus surveyed everything in the temple after this fantastic, almost riotous tribute to him. We are reminded of the critical need to really see and understand our surroundings, to take an honest look around and not be swayed by a public moment. God invites us to do the deep work of seeing what is truly around us and to respond the hidden truth and needs we uncover.
Today, I ask God to help me reflect on the quiet movements of the spirit, the subtle changes that can be hidden by all the noise. May we open our hearts to God's movement in our lives and respond to the real world needs around us.