Thursday, February 11, 2016

Made Known


After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.” John 17:1-8 

We often hear people say they have "friends" on Facebook, and some of their friends post things that go viral. We all find joy in hearing about the lives of those we know well, and enjoy the jokes and videos from the less known. We really are close to very few people, those who touch our lives on a daily basis, those who stop and offer us a drink, those who life us up and reshape us, those who help change the bad direction into a good road.

Jesus, at the end of his ministry talks about his friends and his relationship to God. It is a level of intimacy that we rarely have, and yet we find that Jesus has given us to the Creator, as he cared for his disciples in his earthly life, to be molded, shaped and built into the masterpiece of love and compassion for the good of the world.He does not throw his hands up, but puts his hand to the wheel, preparing each of us for a deep relationship with a loving God. Each of us is reminded today of the depth of God's love for us, the closeness of God's care and the radical intimacy that we have through Christ.

Today I ask God to help me walk with love and compassion on my journey. May we live as those molded, shaped, caressed and sent by a loving Creator. May we share the love we have as we made Christ known in our deeds of caring and compassion.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday 2016


Jesus also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14 

Humbled and Exalted

The busy ones rush by today
on streets the homeless unseen
ignoring the humanity that is theirs
rushing to put it all compassion aside.

The poor and the sidelined know
too well their humanity and fraility
too well they know their rejection
too little do they see of kindness and love.

The coddled and cosseted think themselves
protected from every storm and challenge
they dress and exercise in absolute comfort
thinking they know love and kindness.

The storms of life teach us humility
the winds and rain eat into our flesh
we know we are dust when exposed
to the terrors of failure night and day.

May we this Lent be broken open
to our simplest and most vulnerable selves
may we turn and see our hurting neighbor
in so doing see the face of love from God.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Mardi Gras and Shrove Tuesday


Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord.
To write the same things to you is not troublesome to me, and for you it is a safeguard.
Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh! For it is we who are the circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and boast in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh—even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh.
If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:1-11

Today is Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, which ends the season of Epiphany with a Carnevale, or literally, "giving up of meat". We are preparing today for tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Traditionally Christians gave up many things, including fat, sugar and meat and focused inwardly during Lent. Lent invites us to go deeper, to be honest and penitent, to focus our hearts and minds on the suffering and offering of Christ. In our times there are many ways to keep a holy Lent, including giving up comforts, and also by taking on disciplines and performing services to others. Today is the day to rejoice in our blessings. Whatever you do, remember, tomorrow, sisters and brothers, it will be Lent, so delight in the gifts God has given us.


Paul, writing to the believers in Philippi, reminds them that all that we have comes through Christ's suffering and his perfect humanity, a humanity that was willing to lay it all down for the sake of others. His love for us, more perfect than what we might accomplish, is a foretaste of the love we have in God, and will be with us through all our trials and temptations. We can abide in the hope and promises of Christ, through faith, because he knows our sufferings, knows well our pain, and walks with us through the darkest and most dreadful times. Paul, who thought himself to be righteous before his encounter with Christ, now can reflect the love that Christ has give us, and understands how incomplete and fragile we all are. We are invited to take an inventory of all that God has done for us, all that we are and will be, so that we can know the depths of love that originate from the heart of God. For that, Paul reminds us that there is always cause for rejoicing.

Today, I ask God to help me rejoice in the Lord. May we see the gifts and beauty around us and know that God is present, here in our broken world. May we celebrate those many gifts raucously today, so that we may go with joy to our knee tomorrow. May we give thanks for the blessings as we prepare to seek a new and deeper relationship with the living God.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Denial


Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the girl on duty there, and brought Peter in.
“Surely you are not another of this man’s disciples?” the girl at the door asked Peter.
He replied, “I am not.”
It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.
As Simon Peter stood warming himself, he was asked, “Surely you are not another of his disciples?”
He denied it, saying, “I am not.”
One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the olive grove?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow. John 18:15-18, 25-27 

Denial 

We went from overwhelming joy
from the mountain top visions
to the dark and dangerous streets
where you were arrested.

I watched as you were bound and dragged
watched as you were beaten
I watched as they mocked you fully
and stood aside as you bleed freely.

I did nothing but let the fear
like a rabid cancer consume me
holding my back tears and screams
so they would not arrest me too.

I could have done something
more than waiting and wacthing
more than protecting myself
 more than my weak frame would allow.

Instead I did the worst thing
one human can do to another
I denied knowing you my friend
denied the love that saved my life.

I could have told them stories
of wonders and miracles great
instead I folded like a shamed boy
to save myself alone I denied you.

My fear is my biggest enemy
my humanity afraid to need my God
my heart is breaking open wide
as I weep in the light of day.

There is so much more we can do
that give in to the fear and hate
we can stand up for the love we know
and shine light on God's beautiful gift.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Transfiguration Sunday

Transfiguration by Father John Giuliani
About eight days after Peter had acknowledged Jesus as the Christ of God, Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah"--not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!" When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen. Luke 9:28-36 

More than twenty five years ago I  was anxiously walking into my sister Pegi's hospital room. She was just 42, and awaiting surgery for cancer in Miami. My parents were already there. I was comfortable visiting folks in the hospital, but this was my sister, and the prognosis was not good. I was a wreck. When I went into the room, there she was, without any hair looking more beautiful than ever, and my parents were sitting on either side of her. In that moment I saw her as eternal, radiant. I also knew she was going to die, but was comforted by my vision of her. It gave me the strength to go on. She died about a week later, the surgeon finding her so riddled with cancer they could do nothing more. I miss her still and know she is fully restored and surrounded by the love of God.

Jesus and his disciples are up on the mountain. It is the moment before Jesus sets his face to Jerusalem, and his impending death. On that mountain we were given a vision of the eternal, of the intimacy of his relationship with God and the Creator's faithfulness throughout time. The disciples had a vision that would help them face Jerusalem and all that followed. And we too have a vision, an eternal promise of love and presence that will get us through the days to come.

Today, I ask God to remind me of the mighty and everlasting love we have been given. May we live as people who know mountain top experiences and can go forward facing the biggest challenges ahead with joy and love. 

O God, who before the passion of your only ­begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Child of God


About the middle of the festival Jesus went up into the temple and began to teach. The Jews were astonished at it, saying, “How does this man have such learning, when he has never been taught?” Then Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine but his who sent me. Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own. Those who speak on their own seek their own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is nothing false in him.
“Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why are you looking for an opportunity to kill me?” The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is trying to kill you?” Jesus answered them, “I performed one work, and all of you are astonished. Moses gave you circumcision (it is, of course, not from Moses, but from the patriarchs), and you circumcise a man on the sabbath. If a man receives circumcision on the sabbath in order that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because I healed a man’s whole body on the sabbath? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
Now some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, “Is not this the man whom they are trying to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, but they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Messiah? Yet we know where this man is from; but when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.” Then Jesus cried out as he was teaching in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I am from. I have not come on my own. But the one who sent me is true, and you do not know him. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.” Then they tried to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come. Yet many in the crowd believed in him and were saying, “When the Messiah comes, will he do more signs than this man has done?”
The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering such things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent temple police to arrest him. Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little while longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will search for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.” The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? What does he mean by saying, ‘You will search for me and you will not find me’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?” the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” John 7:14-36 

When I was a young child I used to argue with a fried of mine about church. She was Catholic and I was Protestant. We thought we knew right from wrong, and each thought our way was right. We were small and foolish and had been taught by our teachers the wrongs "others" were doing. In fact, we were both brought up to worship God and each of our unique ways of worship were not the problem. Our attitudes and cultural teachings were. They tried to keep us from the other. Fortunately, we remain friends to this day and have crossed all sorts of boundaries together.

When Jesus was in the midst of the people, at a cultural festival, there was much confusion, argument and anger about his teaching. Some were threatened, others were trying to understand, and yet others were moved by his simple testimony. There was no violence despite the threats that surrounded him. He was a child of God, sealed as God's son and he stood among them with calm and reverence.There culture and upbringing said "no" to him, but their hearts understood a deeper relationship, a deeper presence. They were connected to God and the eternal through him and all were made children of God. We are invited today to put aside our cultural barriers and our rigid mindsets and see God in our midst today.

Today I ask God to help me set aside all preconceived notions and open my heart to God's love and presence today. May we forge beyond boundaries and find relationships where God in Christ is speaking to us. May we make room for the other and see the child of God in the complete stranger.

Friday, February 5, 2016

For Fear


After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He did not wish to go about in Judea because the Jews were looking for an opportunity to kill him. Now the Jewish festival of Booths was near. So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea so that your disciples also may see the works you are doing; for no one who wants to be widely known acts in secret. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” (For not even his brothers believed in him.) Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify against it that its works are evil. Go to the festival yourselves. I am not going to this festival, for my time has not yet fully come.” After saying this, he remained in Galilee.
But after his brothers had gone to the festival, then he also went, not publicly but as it were in secret. The Jews were looking for him at the festival and saying, “Where is he?” And there was considerable complaining about him among the crowds. While some were saying, “He is a good man,” others were saying, “No, he is deceiving the crowd.” Yet no one would speak openly about him for fear of the Jews. John 7:1-13 

For Fear

We will keep ourselves away
from possibility and pleasure
because we cannot imagine
beyond our binding fears.

For fear we will hide away love
bury desire, kindness and compassion
for fear we will sacrifice our children
and avoid the capacity for growth.

We will keep bottled up our joy
for fear of losing joy and life
we will rein in our unique gifts
for fear of what others will say.

We let shame dictate out actions
let style and fashion rule our art
letting angry people direct our fears
turning on the vulnerable and lost.

For fear we return anger for love
and bind up the already victimized
we imprison the least among us
for fear that they might shine.

For fear and all our humanity
Love Incarnate walked this earth
braving the terror of the crowds
the jealousy of the religious leaders.

For an end to fear and cruelty he came
many turned to follow and many
turned away for fear of what was said
they feared being crucified like him.

For the death of fear he rose again
a bloody body buried returning whole
so that love and hope can flourish
so we can find new life beyond our fears.