Monday, January 26, 2015

Do Not Worry

Jesus said to the twelve, "See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved." Matthew 10:16-22

Tomorrow I am heading home from Montana and returning home. There is another big snow storm bearing down on New England. It is hard to hear the words, "don't worry ", when you really want to get home. When everything is in upheaval and nothing seems reliable, it can be hard to hear those words. And the truth is, there is nothing that worry can really do to change the weather or the behavior of others. Wolves will still be wolves and weather will still surprise us.

Jesus was sending his disciples out with a promise. He promised that despite the real struggles they would face, the would also be supplied with what they would need. There will be words when needed, there will be strength when called upon, and the Spirit will be with us in every storm to come. We may tremble when the situation is strenuous and overwhelming but God will provide what we need in every circumstances. We are held securely in the palm of love's hands.

Today I ask God to give me peace and help me set aside all worry. May we put our energy in service and care and let worry go. May we trust that we carry the Holy Spirit and that same spirit will provide every need, moment by moment.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Leaving Nets

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

My life has been draped with nets. Fishing nets are part of my life's visible background, the floats woven into the nets, some brilliant plastic colors and others, ancient ropes repaired over and over again. To leave the nets means to set all of the basic fabric, the rhythm of the tides and the definition of life aside. My life has been defined by the ocean, and by the music of life by the sea. It hits hard to hear Jesus ask these men to leave aside all that is known.

Jesus comes to these simple fishermen and changes their lives forever. They left their father, their home and the crew they have known all their lives to follow a stranger beckoning them on. For the love of the world they went. For the love of God and the redemption of their people they went. Somewhere deep in themselves they understood the importance of this invitation and took the chance. Life afterwards was not easy. But they somehow also knew that their sacrifice of comfort and familiarity would transform the world.

Today I ask God to help us all respond yes to the invitation despite the losses we might suffer. May we trust that God will give us new fabric and new communities of faith and love as we step out and follow. And may we remember that we can follow and will never be left alone.

Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Other Side

They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when Jesus 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 sea, and were drowned in the sea.
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 neighborhood. 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 
The Other Side 
Having survived one storm
hit again with raw and agonizing human need
 a broken young man whose  mind terrorizes
which has woven trouble for the whole village.
We are tossed like flotsam on the ocean
surrounded by evil left to one's own devices
we want to run away and go with the healer.
But here we must stay on the other side
with our people and our community
absorbing the healing we have been given
and building anew the love that passed by.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Storms on the Sea

On that day, when evening had come, Jesus said to them, "Let us go across to the other side." And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?" And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" Mark 4:35-41 
 I have been dreaming about storms on the ocean. These have been some stormy times for me. And yesterday, finding out my mother has another diagnosis to add to the pain of her already aching body, seemed like more than one can bear. Having lived my life by the ocean, I know what real storms are like and how dangerous they are to human (and all) life. I have been on a boat when a storm comes up. Getting to port, getting to shore is the only goal. And everyone on board is racked with fear. It is a very real feeling to consider God as being asleep in the stern careless to our perishing. 
The Gospel today reminds us that we are never alone, even in the worst of life's storm. God is truly with us and we are invited to be in dialogue with God in our daily fears, the big ones and the little ones, seeking through prayer a way beyond the crisis. God's strength and power are not limited like ours and Christ Jesus is not asleep at either the helm or the stern. God abides with each of us, tenderly riding along on good and bad seas.
Today  I ask God for peace within, Though I also would like the storms to subside I trust that there is already a way forward. May we offer our fears and anxieties to God this day, trusting that our safe harbor awaits and that God is moving us beyond these storms to a new and brilliant shore.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Brought to Light

Jesus said to them, "Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!" And he said to them, "Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away."
He also said, "The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.
He also said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade."
With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples. Mark 4:21-34

Brought to Light
This quiet tranquil and obscure place
make me feel secure and hidden away
no one can find me here nestled
in the silent comfort of deep night.

Every night is answered by daylight
every hateful thing answered by love
every small seed becomes broken open
and abundance cannot be held back.

The stories we tell obscure our faults
and belie our need for healing and light
we hunker down hibernating in darkness
awaiting a new season new restoration.

We need no longer wait for God is with us
Emmanuel has come for all and all time
in our darkness there is tender illumination
in our sorrow the soothing healing songs.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Good Soil

Again Jesus began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: "Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold." And he said, "Let anyone with ears to hear listen!"
When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, "To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; in order that
'they may indeed look, but not perceive,
and may indeed listen, but not understand;
so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.'"
And he said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. These are the ones on the path where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy. But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing. And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold." Mark 4:1-20 
 There is a peculiar phenomenon that happens this time of year. Sometime shortly after the holidays are over, in the deepest dark of winter, the seed catalogs start arriving. For us amateur gardeners, it is a breath of life, a hope for the future, and a big tease. Everything around is brown, bleak and frozen. And yet there is the promise that one day there will be a chance to plant and grow again. Some day soon we will be able to turn and feed the earth, making it a strong home for the seeds and plants to come.
Jesus uses the images of good soil to talk about receiving the word of God and bearing fruit. We all know that as humans we are too often careless and shallow, with good intentions but lacking the discipline necessary to provide a healthy living environemnt for faith. We are invited today, as we ponder our hopes for spring, to prepare the soil of our hearts, making ready to be abundant. We care invited to ponder and pray as we make ready for new seeds and new fruit, all gifts from God.
Today I ask God to give me the patience to prepare. May we take time in prayer and preparation for the new seeds God is sending to us. May we be those gardeners who take the time to make ready, to weed and to feed, so that God may use us abundantly in the coming seasons.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A House Divided

Then Jesus went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, "He has gone out of his mind." And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, "He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons." And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.
"Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"—for they had said, "He has an unclean spirit." Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you." And he replied, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" And looking at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother." Mark 3:19b-35 

As parents of three children, we have often been asked, by our daughters, of course, who is our favorite. The answer always comes back, from both of us, that we love them equally. And yet the desire, to be the best, to stand out beyond the others, and to divide the flock is a constant in life in a household. But as parents, we know the truth. We do love them each completely and together we are more than divided into our individual gifts and tendencies.

In our Gospel today, Jesus is being pulled in many directions both by the religious leaders and his family. He stood fast with their pulling and told them that a house divided cannot stand. We are stronger together, and if we want to be the family of God, we will love the work of being a people together. We always want to be chosen as the favorite, or have God chose our team, but we are invited today to work at being a family together in love and service.

Today I ask God to help me work at bringing people together in God's love. May we be dedicated to the justice and compassion of God, welcoming all to the family of God. May we make room for all who would be our siblings, and trust that God will hold us all together.