Tuesday, February 25, 2020

For This I Was Born - Shrove Tuesday


Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.” (This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)

Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”
After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him.” John 18:28-38 

Shrove Tuesday - For this We Are Born

Today we feast with all exuberance
tomorrow we bend our heads
accepting the ashes of our shame
seeking a deeper faith and truth.

We toss the pancakes so very high
because we know we are brought low
another was born for us to die for us
we go deep into those scary wounds.

It is a day of contrast and delight
as the world awakes to new danger
we know we are beloved of God
yet there is so much for us to atone.

Today we celebrate the blessings
tomorrow we meditate on sorrow
we live life on the edge of death
and even at that grave sing alleluia.



Monday, February 24, 2020

Denial

Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. The woman said to Peter, ‘You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing round it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.

Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Jesus answered, ‘I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.’ When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, ‘Is that how you answer the high priest?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?’ Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, ‘You are not also one of his disciples, are you?’ He denied it and said, ‘I am not.’ One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, ‘Did I not see you in the garden with him?’ Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed. John 18: 15-27

Denial

Oh how lovely to pretend
to act as if nothing's happening
to live locked away from truth
shut off from the world.

The pain of seeing a loved one
in trouble for being themselves
more than anyone can bear
and we run from the fire.

Denial cannot stop the flames
when hate rises up against love
when fear turns into violence
then we must open our eyes.

Oh, we are all Peter that night
a heart breaking in his own fear
the coming loss too great to embrace
our feet already fleeing the scene.

Oh, even there on that dark night
God in the midst of us was too
part of the holy broken mess
now part of our holy broken mess too.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Beloved

                       

                                                  Last Sunday After Epiphany

                                                          February 23, 2020

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” Matthew 17:1-9

Sometimes it seems like yesterday when I went to be with my sister, who was dying. I had flown from Baltimore, where we lived, having left my small children behind. I knew I wanted to be there. I was newly ordained, and as much as I tried, all of my training escaped me, and I was trembling as I entered her hospital room. There she was, beautiful, with no hair, beaming in her brokenness, with  my parents, sitting on opposite sides surrounding her. It will be the vision I hold on to, the one of the promise that these folks are blessed and changed in glory. Love breaks us and changes us and gives us glimpses of heaven, the eternal seat of love.

Jesus and three disciples have a moment alone before the whole group headed, for the final time, into Jerusalem. This mountain top moment, this transfiguration gave the disciples a glimpse of glory, a vision of the intimate relationship of the Creator to Jesus and all creation. We are not abandoned to death, but indeed, surrounded and swept up by love.

Today, I ask God to help me face the loss and fears of the days ahead knowing the depth of divine love that surrounds us all. May we all hold on to the vision of the Beloved and be love for the world in need.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Across the Jordan

The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.” Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If those to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’—and the scripture cannot be annulled—can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands.

He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. Many came to him, and they were saying, “John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in him there. John 10: 31-42

Across the Jordan

I cannot argue with you any more
I will go to the other side of the river
New Jersey side or the Canadian side
I will seek God in the absence of furor.

There is mess and agony on this side
genuine compassion and concern dwell
among the poor, the restless and broken
God lives here in this lonesome place.

You can dress up your elegant cruelty
you can sell ads to your mean deceit
I will wander at the water's edge
seeking miracles that come from loving.

You can shun me and reject me
hurl insults and try to kill me too
I will be the child of God created
for love of this broken and messy world.


Wednesday, February 19, 2020

No One Will Snatch Them


Again the Jews were divided because of these words. Many of them were saying, ‘He has a demon and is out of his mind. Why listen to him?’ Others were saying, ‘These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered, ‘I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.’ John 10:19-30

We can't help but worry about those we love, especially when they are sick or have received a difficult diagnosis. We don't want to even consider living without them. We don't want them to suffer pain or harm, let alone be lost to us. Yet, we know pain and suffering is part of life and all of us will meet our end. For those who know us by name, and to whom we are known by name, we are precious and wanted in every moment that we have.

Jesus is being tested - as usual. His response is a simple one about the relationships forged in love. When we are known and loved we do not have to question the motives or the thinking of others. We are held closely, cared for and loved tenderly. Despite all the world can dish out, we are reminded that we are held by God's love, surrounded, as parents arms around a child, secure in the love that is unmoving and permanent. We are invited to live as those so loved that nothing will be able to remove us from that place of secured and solid presence.

Today, I ask God to hep me live the assurance that we are so very loved by God and held closely and tenderly. May we be the secure loving hands needed in this world today.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Shepherd's Gate

‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’ Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.’ John 10:1-18

The Shepherd's Gate

The pasture flows with grass
a stream flows near enough by
there is plenty for us each day
yet we look beyond the gate.

We run free here and are safe
yet we see ourselves beyond
aching for the adventurous road
the dangers coming around the bend.

This is the shepherd's pasture
and we peer through this very gate
we think our peace is shattered
when it is our hearts lacking creativity.

The shepherd watches and waits
bring food and safety, singing along
we bleat out our dissatisfaction
we butt heads and fight for dominance.

It is the Shepherd's pasture and delight
that we should be cared for and sought
wanted and protected we resent it all
until the stranger comes to steal us away.




Lord, I Believe

The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”< So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out. Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.” John 9:18-41 

Lord, I Believe

These days, when the sun won't shine
when reports of pain and horrors ahead
swirl around and try to swallow us
I will still say, Lord, I do believe.

The waters rise and the snow falls
it can be like drowning is our fate
we can feel the inevitable damages
or we can float and remember to breathe.

The whole world can panic on rumors
folks run and hide for fear of this disease
that is when we can remember we are loved
we can cry out, Lord, I do believe.

We can lose the roadmap and the light
find ourselves in a foreign place and time
yet there is no strange place to our Creator
and we are held in God's loving arms.

When our homes have been demolished
when another love has been lost in death
when sorrow is too deep and constant
still the love of God is here in our distress.