Thursday, January 18, 2018

Living Water



Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, ‘Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John’— although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized— he left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’ John 4:1-15

Living Water

In this high desert whitened winter
the deep dryness hidden by snow
we gather around moving streams
we circle like birds over a fallen prey.

Clouds have obscured our light
aching cold has frozen our sources
we feel the pain of starvation
we lack love and joy in our bones.

The nutrients of health are missing
from the climate of our conversation
we fear for our daily bread and meat
even though it is a land of plenty.

Let us seek together that ancient well
the spring of living water from on high
the gift that is holy and restorative
given by God to enemy and friend alike.






Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Increase and Decrease


After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he spent some time there with them and baptized. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim because water was abundant there; and people kept coming and were being baptized—John, of course, had not yet been thrown into prison.
Now a discussion about purification arose between John’s disciples and a Jew. They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.”
The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his testimony. Whoever has accepted his testimony has certified this, that God is true. He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath. John 3:22-36

We who are leaders in the church are called to be humble, yet all too often we think of ourselves as having great power and influence, acting more like politicians and CEOs. If we have any power or influence at all it comes from the love of God, working in and through us. This is a great reason to be very humble, not judging others or acting superior to them. People need servant leaders, now more than ever.

John is being questioned by religious leaders and his disciples. They wanted to draw John into competition with Jesus, wanting him to exercise his influence and power. Instead, he demonstrated his humility and his understanding of God's movement in the present moment. The world needed Jesus and was sent by God to bring healing and redemption to a world of violence and oppression. We are invited by God to be leaders who can make room for the activity and love of God working in our world today.

I ask God to help me always be a servant leader, putting the love of Christ and the needs of the world always first. May we who have influence and power use it to serve always so that the Divine love might be known again in our time.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Light Has Come


Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” John 3:16-21

The Light Has Come

Like distant celestial bodies
we circle around seemingly alone
in our private orbits of sorrow
with no way to get ourselves home.

The winter darkness descended deep
failure and isolation our companions
we squint in our shadowed dwellings
afraid to be exposed as so incomplete.

Yet light has found us in our hiding place
love has sought us out and sat down
here at our table of seeming disaster
the holy has deemed to dwell.






Monday, January 15, 2018

Dr. Martin Luther King Day - The Wind Blows


When Jesus was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.
Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
“Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” John 2:23 – 3:15 (NRSV)

I grew up with this speech on my lips. "I have a dream" and I was fortunate to meet Dr. King as a child. I know that some thing dreams only to be the activity of our subconscious and our inner self, yet I am convinced that dreams come on the wind, a gift and challenge of the Holy Spirit. God works even when we sleep and we often hear and see best when we are silent and at rest. I have been dreaming about new possibilities and new challenges. The dream can die or we can put ourselves in the middle of this destructive world and sing until the dream is carried world wide again on the wind.

Jesus invites a night visitor, Nicodemus, that he must be born again. Born again of the Spirit. The very committed religious leader is overwhelmed by Jesus' challenge as are we. Yet God invites us all to be born again of the Holy Spirit, not once, but daily. We are called, now more than ever, to listen to the Spirit, on the wind, in our dreams, and in the voice of our children, and be born again so that we might live for others. We must be born again daily so God can use us for the healing and redemption of the world.

Today, I ask God to wash over me, take away my pride and attitudes and fill me again with the Holy Spirit. May the nightmares of our times be replaced by the dream of God, that all children, from every nation and culture, might be blessed with freedom, and be filled with God's love.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Nazareth?

Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”  John 1:43-51

This reading was designated for Thursday Morning Prayer as well as the Gospel for today. At first, I wasn't going to write again, but in light of recent statements by our "leader", I think it is critical to reflect some more on this passage. We have both a lesson about call and a lesson of where God dwells. We have much to learn in this land of ours, especially on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Nathanael speaks of Nazareth as a ****hole town, a place thought to be of no value, no consequence, useless and backward in every way. He questions his friend Philip as to the value of this man who was a "supposed" messiah. Nathanael voices what his whole world thought. And yet, this is where God  incarnate dwells, in the places where no one would look or expect. In the ruined and crime torn places, God incarnate dwells, and see us under the protection of our fig trees, thinking our cruel thoughts. We are invited today, in this season to know that God calls all people and places good, and holy. From the humblest of places, the voice of God came and is to come.

Today, I ask God to help me disregard no one or no place but seek the holy in every moment in every person. May we know God as we are in relationship with those most different from us. And may we welcome, with the love we have been given, all those who come to our communities for help and sanctuary.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Zeal for your House


The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. John 2:13-22

These days there are so many real estate shows on television, history might record that all of us worried about property and design. Folks in following generations might wonder if all we worried about was money as well. Truly, we can be known by what we put our time and energy into. We can make our lives invitational or transactional, caring only about how much we will gain from any interaction. We can worry so much about looks that the heart is lost completely.

Jesus enters the temple and all he can see is the transactions. There were many rules and regulations, and the pilgrims that came from afar had to use certain currency and special sacrifices. The life of faith was controlled by the bankers of the time. We can find ourselves in the self-same situation. We can be run by budgets or we can be motivated by faith and spirit. Sometimes we have to actively make that choice.

Today, I ask God to help me choose faith and spirit in all things. May we not be like the moneychangers, but rather those who walk in faith, welcoming all and making room in the most humble of places.


Friday, January 12, 2018

Doing What Mom Says


On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples; and they remained there a few days. John 2:1-12

There are situations that children find themselves in, when one's mother is present.  No matter the age, we find it impossible to resist her direction, and we as Moms know how powerful our words can be. We sometimes see in our young the potential they don't see. All too often though, our words seem like orders rather than encouragement. We ache so much for you children's thriving that we can, at times, be harsh when tenderness is needed. Balance in the parenting world is often hard, no matter how young or old or children might be.

Jesus has his first miracle at his mother's insistence.  The Gospel openly recalls his initial refusal. The Incarnate God, who was fully human, felt reluctant and hesitant in his calling, just as we often do. It is hard for us to picture the Savior of the world as tentative and uncomfortable. Yet, we all can envision moments when we faltered, were hesitant and lacked confidence. We often find ourselves there now. Yet, Jesus had a push, a nudge, a loving direction. And we all need those today, as we move together in service of God's love.

Today I ask God to give me the gift of those who will lovingly nudge me and encourage the gifts I have been given. May we all be fearless as we encourage others, knowing that the gifts given by God are to be used for the good of the world.