Sunday, November 23, 2014

Christ the King

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

The long season of ordinary time has come to an end. We will start Advent this coming week. Life changes dramatically and the church and the world turns to await the coming of the Christ child. As we begin this new season, we are reminded of the glory of Christ which is found in our willingness to love and serve others.

There are those in this world who would have power and status. And there are those who win power and status through money, thinking themselves special and gifted because of their purchases. We are invited to know the true power in life which is found in kindness, tenderness, compassion and service. If we want to be close to God, we must be willing to draw close to the poor and imprisoned, the homeless, the lonely, the abandoned elderly. God is found in the darkest places, where no glamor or glitter is to be found.  We are reminded out loud, during this holiday season to find God beyond the decorations, beyond the parties, and deep in the heart of need.

Today I ask God to help me move to the edges in my search for God. May we move to serve God by giving ourselves away and by seeing God in the least of our neighbors. May we stay away from the glamor and move towards the love.

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well¯beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Humble

 He 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

The Humble

Everyone knows what she did
and saw how often she fell down
no model for any other person
she sits in prayer asking for strength.

He stands strutting like a winner
although he left his family starving
despite the fact he stole money
and tore the hearts of all who trusted him.

The arrogance of the world surrounds us
competition and winners get the  press
yet the single mom who feeds her little one
prays over leftover food brought home.

The holy one hovers in the alleys
and hears the prayers and tears
raised day and night but the lonely
sent heavenward by the abandoned.

O gifted wealthy and talented
bow down before the one who made you
for gifts are given for the healing of others
grace given for the sharing with the world.

God is present at the soup kitchen table
in the cold night swirling with snow
in the blankets sheltering the homeless
and at the humble tables of the poor.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Crying Out to God

Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, 'Grant me justice against my opponent.' For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, 'Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'" And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?" Luke 18:1-8 

Crying Out To God

It is truly broken Lord
I sit with the shards in hand
weeping over the loss
alone with my faults and shame.

The night chill descends upon me
like a blanket surrounding me with pain
this darkness is too deep for me
I might be swallowed up in this place.

This night I will cry out to you
my rock, my hiding place and my salvation
from time's beginning you are love
and you will come to me with compassion.

Despite the dampness and the drear
I will rise us in the early morning
I will light the lamps and set a place
for you are drawing near.

I will not dwell in evil's place
you will come and save us all
you will mend the sacred hoop
and bind the people together again.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Between Samaria and Galilee

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" When he saw them, he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, "Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well." Luke 17:11-19 

Between Samaria and Galilee

The suffering and pain were less
than the shame and exclusion
sent away from all that we know
to live together in order to die.

This diseased body still cries
still aches for love and compassion
this body is still completely human
though wholly broken and rejected.

The outcasts of this world
huddled together for our sins
sick and shattered still cling to hope
that the road beside will still surprise us.

Thousands pass by and turn away
hundreds look and are horrified
the braver ones stare in wonder
what can they do for a sickness so vile?

One voice in our wilderness
heard our cry for help and healing
miracles abounding we returned home
forgetting to be grateful for our freedom.

On the road between Samaria and Galilee
one remembered all that God had done
one alone spoke thanksgiving and praise
all were healed but one was made whole.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Stumbling and Forgiveness

Jesus said to his disciples, "Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, 'I repent,' you must forgive."
The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" The Lord replied, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you.
"Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, 'Come here at once and take your place at the table'? Would you not rather say to him, 'Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink'? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, 'We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'" Luke 17:1-10 

Being human, we all stumble and fall. We give in to urges and egos. We let our compulsions and our greed overtake our sense of who we really are. Those who are put on pedestals fall farther. They begin to believe what people say about them, and they think that they are more holy, more talented, and closer to God. We are all human and we will all stumble. Forgiveness is the only way we get beyond our fallen places, our humanity that is so broken and so in need of healing. Seeking forgiveness and granting forgiveness is a gift we get from God, even in our most fallen moments.

Jesus is instructing his followers about their daily lives. They could get grandiose visions of  their leadership and their power. And Jesus would have them focus on humility and forgiveness. I remember an old friend of my father's saying to me, "the point of embarrassment is the point of redemption." When we are fully human we can be fully forgiven. Our stumbling and broken nature is a given. And God would have us know, that despite our hideous and regular falls, our selfishness and erring, there is still more forgiveness and redemption, still more love to go around.

Today I ask God to help me forgive all those who have led others astray. May our broken humanity meet others and hear always the need for asking for forgiveness, and in return forgiving others. May we always bend toward the weak and fallen, being agents of love, lifting others up in their most desperate times.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Great Chasm

Jesus said, "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.' But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.' He said, 'Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father's house—for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.' Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.' He said, 'No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” Luke 16:19-31 

 A Great Chasm

One lies on a cold sidewalk
covered in the grime and filth
daily life ignoring the hungry need
still looking at Divine compassion.

Another lies in silk, satin and linens
every need covered by bending servant
daily life revolving around him alone
still trusting self and wealth.

One hand holds a cup in begging
the other crystal filled with wine
one hand reaches towards the heavens
the other into others' pockets.

The ancient great chasm widens now
the poor still stand in line for food
the rich throw away and pay the spa
sending castoffs beyond their gates.

The Holy stands at gates watching
the lack of compassion and tenderness
when abundance and blessings not shared
the chasm widens and hope gets lost.

Throw open the gates and let them in
spread the blanket wide and make the feast
let the chasm close and blessing shared
and invite the reign of God today.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Matter of Talent

Jesus said, "For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, `Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.' His master said to him, `Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, `Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.' His master said to him, `Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, `Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.' But his master replied, `You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' " Matthew 25:14-30

I am blessed to know many talented people, and come from a family of talented people. Not everyone's gifts are the same, some are artists, some musicians and some talented at bringing people together. Whether famous or not talented people are at their best when they are able to use their talent for expression, to liven up the world and to challenge the way others see and think. It is incredibly sad when those same folks hide their gifts due to lack of confidence. Some have been hurt so badly. And sometimes they can be lazy or selfish and want perfection and adoration rather than the work it takes to develop a true gift. And worst of all, sometimes they can use their gifts to bully and hurt others. The more gifts we have the more responsibility we have.Love is the best gift of all, and it too takes work and humility.

Jesus was speaking to his disciples and those gathered about the blessings they receive. He reminds us all if we step out and use what we have been given, we will be a blessing and we will know blessing. If we hide away in fear or laziness, we will never know the blessings from what we have been given. We must, no matter how often we fail, continue to use the love and the talents we have been given. God planted each of us with talents that the worlds needs today.

Today I ask God to help me use what I have been given for the benefit of others. May our hands and hearts be used always for the good of others, for lifting up the fallen and for leading the lost and forgotten.

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.