Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Testing


Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, in whose house the scribes and the elders had gathered. But Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest; and going inside, he sat with the guards in order to see how this would end. Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’” The high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?” But Jesus was silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I put you under oath before the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”
Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you,
From now on you will see the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of Power
and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?” They answered, “He deserves death.” Then they spat in his face and struck him; and some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who is it that struck you?” Matthew 26:57-68 

There are times in our lives we feel tested, sometimes tested beyond our capacity to hold it together.  I never liked tests of any sort, whether physical or academic. Tests also made me very anxious and often tongue tied. I remember auditioning once for a chorus, it was our annual auditions, and failing miserably at singing the music. This was music that I supposedly knew but everything got scrambled in my anxiety. My throat tightened in my nervousness. Even in presumably safe and friendly situations, we can be overcome by fear. Fortunately for me, our conductor let me sit with the chorus that night. He listened in while we were in rehearsal and finally popped me on the top of the head, saying, "you know this music, silly!"

Jesus was being tested for his life. He could be nothing but authentic, nothing but who he was completely. Calm and settled in the face of threats, taunts and violence, he found a peace that let him walk through the pain and testing that was before him. He took our humanity on, facing the cruelest and inhuman treatment people can devise. He took this on so that we might all live closely with our Creator, trusting in power greater than humans can imagine. God invites us today to seek Christ's peace in the face our testing. Whatever we face, we are not alone and have a companion as we walk through anxious and dangerous times. God is calling us to walk on, knowing our need and our humanity.

Today I ask God to give me an extra measure of peace as I face the coming days. There is much to do and many changes to embrace. May we have the peace of Christ as we face the testing before us. May we remember that there is more beyond the challenges of today. God's love and peace are poured out in abundance for us all today.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Very Early


Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”
There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.
When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” Mark 15:37-16:7 

Very Early

This trauma, this loss
we are overwhelmed
and bound together
our compass, our stay is gone.

Very early we set out unseen
the tears that flow are hidden
the new light barely shows
the depth of loss and greif.

We set out to do the impossible
to anoint his body locked away
our need to salve wounds
that can no longer be mended.

Finding an opening where none should be
screams muffled by our fears
Light and life poured forth from where
only death and rot should be found.

Very early in the morning
three women set out on a humble errand
a moment that rocked their world
as death blossomed into life.

Very early in the morning
when we least expect new life
God is breathing possibility into
the hidden broken bodies we hide away.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Let This Cup Pass


Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.” And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.” Matthew 26:36-46

Sometimes we feel as if we have burdens too great to bear. We are human and there are times when we are so overwhelmed that we drop from exhaustion, sleeping and yet still un-rested and feeling all the more undone. These past few weeks, after our return from Alaska,  have been a joyous time seeing family and friends. These weeks have also been hard with my mother being so critical and so needy. Sometimes we just want this cup to pass, the burden to be lifted. And if it cannot be lifted, well then maybe strength enough to see it through.

Jesus was with loved ones and family. In a few hours all hell would break loose, and everything they knew and understood would change. The greatest and most powerful drama was about to unfold. Nothing they had expected, nothing they were equipped to deal with. The only way even Jesus could steal himself was to pray. He didn't want the role he was given but would ask God to see him through.  We are invited by God today to throw ourselves into God's loving arms in the midst of our crises. God beckons us to rest and trust, that the Divine who raised Jesus will see us through our toughest struggles.

Today I ask God for the strength I need today. Empower us all to pray in these challenging times and to know God is holding us close against all that assaults us. May we not fear or run from our roles but know God is with us every moment.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Weeds


Jesus put before the crowd another parable: "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, `Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?' He answered, `An enemy has done this.' The slaves said to him, `Then do you want us to go and gather them?' But he replied, `No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'"
Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached 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 are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children 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 collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!" Matthew 13:24-30,36-43

Weeds

We are swift to judge
thinking ourselves insiders
believing we are safe and secure
and God is on our side.

If we turn away from the young
the strangely dresses the tatooed
if we turn back from the need
then do we not become the weeds?

 Will we be the weeds
choking out others for gain
worried only about our food
caring only for our comfort?

God's generosity unlimited and unseen
we take for granted this abundance
we think ourselves derserving
then are we to be the weeds?

Oh let us reach for the sun's light
basking in the gifts from heaven
and may we be food and care for others
may our lives feed others now.




The Collect
Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Poured Out


While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.”
When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written,
‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’
But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” Peter said to him, “Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you.” Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And so said all the disciples. Matthew 26:26-35 

As we drive home from the rehabilitation facility, on an almost daily basis  I am struck by how fragile and resilient we humans are. I sat in the physical therapy room watching my mother struggle to regain the use of her arms and legs, diligently counting the repetitions and putting her whole body into the effort. She is giving it her all, despite the challenges of being 91 and having a spinal chord injury and surgery. She, and the others around her, put their whole selves into the work of getting better and stronger. 

Jesus sits with his disciples and tell them that his life will be poured out for them, and for all of us. The words, so familiar in the Eucharist, are a shock and confusion to those gathered with him. They didn't want to hear it, they didn't want to believe it. Some would run from it. And yet, God reminds us today that God's love is poured out for us but never spent. God's love is constantly poured out in abundance for us. God's love is more dedicated and resilient than any human experience we have. And in Christ, who offered his all for us, we find an abundance of love, healing, forgiveness and renewal.

Today, I ask God to give me the eyes of love. May we see all the blessings of God's love in our daily walk, and be reminded of all that God has done and is doing for us. May we never lose hope, but continue to stretch and grow, strengthening our love and faith as we go forward today.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

In Her Memory


When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”
Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and they conspired to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.” Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, “Why this waste? For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.” Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him. Matthew 26:1-16 

In Her Memory

No one paid her any attention
she had no resume, no elevator speech
her hands were rough, nails jagged
just another hard luck story.

His disciples had seen it all
one needy and broken person after another
too much need and never enough cash
all wanting more than they deserved.


They did not know her name
nor do we so long afterwards
and yet her actions with her alabaster jar
changed the world forever.

The one who all denied and rejected
woman, poor and set aside
became the bearer of the Gospel
the singer of the love song of God.

Her tears and compassion
set the tone and scale for all we do
offering her all to the honor of God
her memory is carried on in acts of love.




Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Sheep and Goats


Jesus said, "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' Then he will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." Matthew 25:31-46 

I am partial to both sheep and goats. Although sheep provide incredible varieties of soft wools, they aren't terribly bright. Goats, on the other hand, are feisty and inquisitive, always pushing the limits. It seems to me we need both in our world. I always struggled with this analogy since it seems as if the sheep are favored over the goats. I don't want God to separate out those who are lively, those who push the limits, those who live on the margins. And being left handed doesn't help things much either. I don't think of those things which go to the left side as being evil, but as comfortable and familiar. I think sheep and goats, as well as right and left, meant something very different to his first century audience than they so to me. But what is clear is the call to serving the least.
Jesus is teaching the people that to serve God, is to serve the people on the margins, the poor, the prisoners and those without homes or families. We are being called to care for the alien, the immigrant, the children who are strangers in our midst. Jesus is talking to the people then, and to us in this present age. As Indigenous people, we have always welcomed strangers and fed those who come to our communities. Sometimes that has led to our destruction. And yet, hospitality and care are a critical part of our societies. Jesus invites us today to examine our hearts, and to chose welcome and service over isolation and exclusion.

Today, I ask God to open my heart more and more. May we not judge and separate others, but rather see the face of Christ in each and every one. May this be the day where we welcome sheep and goats alike, understanding that God loves each and every one of us.