Sunday, February 26, 2017

Transfiguration


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

When I think of the transfiguration, I cannot help but think of my sister Pegi. She was battling cancer and I flew down to Miami to be with her and my folks during her surgery which proved to be her last. I was newly ordained, walking the halls of an unfamiliar hospital, feeling completely lost. I finally found her room, and stood at the door, watching my parents, one on each side of her, as she sat up in bed, her beauty radiating from under her bald head. I knew she was going to die, and I knew she was going to be all right. My parents, like two pillars of faith were beacons of hope and promise despite the circumstances.

The transfiguration of Jesus happens at a pivotal moment. From this point on he is heading to Jerusalem and his death. This is the last Sunday of Epiphany and next Sunday we will be deep in the season of Lent. In the midst of this moment comes a vision and a promise. The three disciples see the loving relationship that God has with the saints of the past and promises that to us as well. Despite the circumstances ahead we are offered a vision of hope and promise. God invites us to enter this time with hope, knowing there is more love and life to come than we can imagine today.

Today I ask God to help me hold onto the vision of hope and love. May we understand our circumstances and trials as temporary, knowing that we are loved by God and held firmly in God's hands.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Praying

‘Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
 ‘So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.*
 ‘And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.*
 ‘When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
 ‘Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
   hallowed be your name.
   Your kingdom come.
   Your will be done,
     on earth as it is in heaven.
   Give us this day our daily bread.*
   And forgive us our debts,
     as we also have forgiven our debtors.
   And do not bring us to the time of trial,*
     but rescue us from the evil one.*
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
 ‘And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. Matthew 6:1-16

Praying

On are knees alone we talk
With the Creator like a child
Asking a parent for real help
Baring our soul and weeping.

When  we stand and lead others
We find flowere words covering
Our broken hearts and raw wounds
Pretending the need belongs to others.

Our authentic tears like rare stones
Precious and uniquely personal
Cherished by God as a child'support drawing
Plastered with joy on the wall.

Letting go of judgement and forgiving
Freeing our hearts to fly again
A child joy to see Creation as a gift
A dance

Friday, February 24, 2017

Loved Beyond Measure

Jesus said, “You have heard
that it was said, ‘An eye for
an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’
But I say to you, Do not resist
an evildoer. But if anyone strikes
you on the right cheek, turn the
other also; and if anyone wants
to sue you and take your coat,
give your cloak as well; and if
anyone forces you to go one mile,
go also the second mile. Give to
everyone who begs from you,
and do not refuse anyone who
wants to borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said,
‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and
pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for
he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the
unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the
tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are
you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your
heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:38-48

There are times when we want to strike out in anger and weep in sorrow. The world seems turned upside down with car bombs and sports bar shootings. Into this mix we hear about love. When I was newly ordained, I thought I knew how God wanted me to be and act. That arrogance was quickly changed and I realized my ministry was not about me but totally about others. About loving unconditionally and accepting the hardest and the most difficult.
Jesus continues his sermon on the mount. In this sermon he has turns the traditions on their side. Everyone listening would have memorized the sayings he was referring to. His was an oral culture where these great lessons and texts would have been known by heart. They would have shaken their heads in acknowledgment and the opened their mouths in surprise. Jesus was pushing the boundaries, knocking down the traditional walls and telling them that love was for everyone and everyone was their neighbor. The perfection is found in the love of God, which when we share it freely, makes us better and renews us day by day.
Today I ask God to help me be a minister of God's love. May we be vessels of love and forgiveness, setting aside judgement, and making room for love beyond measure.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

No No


Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.
“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.” Matthew 5:27-37

One of my favorite comedies is the Vicar of Dibley. Jim Trott, played by Trevor Peacock, is very entertaining and constantly saying, " no, no, no, yes." He tends to confuse everyone with hilarious results. We are often confused by people who say one thing and do another, with not comedic but sad and dangerous results. I myself have to be careful what I promise in order to make certain I can deliver. We humans are always big on promises and low on results. It is a spiritual discipline to check our words and actions to make certain we are honoring what we say and caring rightly for the people in our charge.

Jesus continues his sermon on the mount, with challenges to familiar cultural and religious rules. He knows the religious leaders are all too good at following the letter of the law and ignoring the spirit and truth of the law. We are invited by God to take seriously our commitments and words to one another. When we take vows, either religious or in relationships, we are invited to understand how important our words, our vows become.

Today, I ask God to help me honor the depth of my vows as a bishop and serve the people I have been given. May God strengthen each of us with humility and compassion, so that all we do honors the people we serve.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Reconciliation


Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.” Matthew 5:21-26

Reconciliation

Over time we even forget why we were mad
yet the wounds fester and persist until
we leave our gifts at the altar and go
seeking the sister or brother we've hurt.

We bend and kneel in meaningless prayer
when we walk outside and break others' spirits
the altars of the world accept our greedy gifts
showering honor and praise on the violent.

We release love and hope into the world
like a flower blossoming despite the weather
covered with snow and winter's chill
reconciling opens the heavens again.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Salt and Light


Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:13-20

In the middle of winter, here in Montana February, I often think hoe important light truly is, as well as flavor like salt. Things can get dark and bland as we snuggle inside against the cold and eat the soups and stews we have made repeated times. Even comfort food gets old after a time. Life can be very bleak without light and people who bring us hope and joy in the midst of dark times. I often find myself, standing outside when the sun shines bright, trying to absorb every ray of sunlight to lift the winter's isolation.

Jesus reminds the people that no matter how challenging our lives become, we have something to offer, something to give. There is great need and many dark places in this world. People are aching to receive a little brightness, a little hope, a little joy. God  promises to multiply our possibilities when we share the little we have with others.

Today, I ask God to help me be light and salt in this world. May we not keep to ourselves but rather share God's love in the deep darkness and the cold, tasteless places.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Blessed


When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:1-12

Blessed

The deportees and the rejected are blessed
those who are hiding from the law likewise
this God of our is one who loves the broken
seeking out the hungry, the lonely the oppressed.

We are following a train of compassion
riding the rails with the outcast and deserted
sitting on sidewalks and alleys in cities
we find God in these most humble places.

Blessings do not come to those who hoard
nor to those gated, hidden, fully protected
but to those with little who still dream and hope
to those who carry their young in the night.

We are  walking on the heavenly highway
on foot in front of the other leaving no one behind
we hold hands as we cross in dangerous places
we find God awaiting us at every border.