Sunday, November 29, 2015

Advent 1 - Mary Letters - Day 1

Jesus said, "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
Then he told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
"Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man." Luke 21:25-36

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

Today  I was sitting under the fig tree in our yard, keeping out of the sun. I am so bothered by the heat these days and feel as round as a ripe fig myself. I overheard Daddy and Momma arguing inside about what is to be done with me. They have taken Joseph's offer of marriage but neighbors are saying horrible things. Daddy has to walk with Momma to the market these days. People insult her and refuse to sell her the necessities. They call us heathens.

No one believes that I am still a virgin and that God has ordained these things. Obviously from what my parents have said, they doubt my sanity. I'm beginning to doubt myself as well. I feel like crying all the time and Joseph hates it when I do. He tries to comfort me and be strong, but he is so uncomfortable with any of the details of the pregnancy. Momma said to talk to her about woman things and leave Joseph out of it for now. But he will soon be a father and needs to know what's going on. I sometimes feel like everyone is against me.

Auntie Elizabeth, I know you understand. People probably think you're way too old to be pregnant. And with Uncle not talking, it must make everyone wonder. Let's make sure we pray for each other every day. Otherwise, I'm not sure I'm going to make it through. This anxiety and anger are hard to live with.

Sending you love,


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Moved With Compassion

As they were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. There were two blind men sitting by the roadside. When they heard that Jesus was passing by, they shouted, "Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!" The crowd sternly ordered them to be quiet; but they shouted even more loudly, "Have mercy on us, Lord, Son of David!" Jesus stood still and called them, saying, "What do you want me to do for you?" They said to him, "Lord, let our eyes be opened." Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they regained their sight and followed him. Matthew 20:29-34
We are now in the season of overwhelming expectations. We are assaulted by ads and emails about special sales and articles that tell us how to make it a Great holiday. They push winning, doing things right, getting the best deals etc. What no one seems to remember is that the season of preparation, this Advent that starts tomorrow, concerns changing our hearts and minds to see two refugee parents and a baby born in the stable as our redemption story. Life among the vulnerable, transitional and marginal demands a compassion that comes from the heart of God.
Jesus is confronted by two blind men who will not cease their shouting. There is a great crowd and time is running short, and people are anxious not to disturb Jesus. But the heart of God moved him to stand still and listen, moved him to stop and linger. The men simply wanted their eyes opened. They wanted to see - not rule the world or have a million dollars but have what every one of us takes for granted - sight. These once blind men were healed and followed him on the road. And this road would become an enormous challenge, but they followed none the less because of his stopping, his compassion from the heart of God. 
We are invited this season to stop and linger, waiting for the compassion of God to move our hearts. We are invited to make this season of Advent, a time of waiting and expecting tremendous changes to our interior space. May we not be distracted by the exteriors of the season and rather set out hearts and minds to waiting for the change of heart.
Today I ask God to help me wait for God's movement in my life. May we not quiet the voices of need but rather stop and listen. May we be moved by the heart of God to welcome the strangers in our midst.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Going Up to Jerusalem

While Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified; and on the third day he will be raised."
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, "What do you want?" She said to him, "Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom." But Jesus answered, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?" They said to him, "We are able." He said to them, "You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father."
When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many." Matthew 20:17-28 

Going Up to Jerusalem

 Someday are harder than others
what is ahead is mixed with hope and fear
welcome and conflict all mixed together
anxiety and prayers for understanding.

Some resolve the transition misery
with planning and plotting positions
some go silent and into themselves
while other sing to cover their fears.

What we face we never face alone
our traumas are share and well known
the hear of God stands with us in the breach
we are terrified and yet firm in our faith.

They will lay palm branches down
singing his praises and dancing with joy
within a few days they will all turn
and scream crucify, crucify, crucify.

And yet there is more to the story
dying we are raised again to life
entering the terrifying  danger zones 
we are made safe within the hands of God.


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Bread of Life - Thanksgiving 2015

Jesus said, "Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal."
Then they said to him, "What must we do to perform the works of God?" Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." So they said to him, "What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" Then Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." They said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always." Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:26-35 
Today is Thanksgiving Day 2015, a day when we stuff turkeys and ourselves, and remember all that we are thankful for. People obsess about food, food preparation and presentation and plan for their Christmas shopping onslaught. For Native people, who love feasts as well as everyone else, it is a day of very mixed emotions. Welcoming the settlers and helping them to survive became the undoing of many of our tribes and peoples. The intersection of being thankful and truthful remembering is important for every true Thanksgiving.
Jesus is overwhelmed by the confusion of those around him. They want the way ahead simplified and clear. And he reminds them that their humble faith and service to others will always fill their bellies and their hearts. They want signs and guarantees, as do we. And we are invited by God to put simple faith and loving service first and all our needs will be filled. As we learn to love and share with our neighbors, we will see and know the presence of the loving and incarnate Creator. We will be blessed as we bless others.
Today I ask God to help me be grateful and thankful by being of service to others. May our love and service be the sign of God's presence with us. And may we remember the past, so that we can use those lessons to work for justice and love in our world today.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

For God All Things Are Possible

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, "Then who can be saved?" But Jesus looked at them and said, "For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible."
Then Peter said in reply, "Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?" Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first." Matthew 19:23-30 

 All Things Are Possible - a song for the weary

We have been wounded hurt deep
slandered and shamed and attacked
given up our pride and our station
afforded only the last place in line.

In our tears and torments
God stand with us today
the outcast and cast offs
will become the royal children
dancing in the garden once again.

We have abused by those who could honor
shaken by those who should shelter
left alone by those who might lead us
and tortured by those who could heal.

In our tears and torments
God stand with us today
the outcast and cast offs
will become the royal children
we will dance in the garden again.

They will try to remove us further
push us to the edge of breaking
tempted to run and hide away
bury ourselves in the shadows.

In our tears and torments
God stand with us today
the outcast and cast offs
have become the royal children
we are dancing in the garden today.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Little Children

Then little children were being brought to Jesus in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs." And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.
Then someone came to him and said, "Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?" And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." He said to him, "Which ones?" And Jesus said, "You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself." The young man said to him, "I have kept all these; what do I still lack?" Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions. Matthew 19:13-22 

I spent the weekend outside Calgary, Alberta with a group of Anglicans and Lutherans from both sides of the border. The intent of the conference was for the church to begin to learn how to live in right relations with Indigenous peoples. It was a powerful gathering. We heard, over and over, the residential school stories from many elders there. Maybe the church and the government, in the US and Canada, thought they were fixing the Indian problem by bringing the children to Jesus.  So many children were taken from their families, robbed of their language and culture,  taught that we were inferior. Maybe the initial intent was good, but it broke the hearts, minds and spirits of thousands. Sweet innocent little children thought they had to change to be loved by God.

Jesus again confronts the well meaning disciples and the wealthy young man in all of us. We feel the urge to help and fix the less fortunate, or those who seem different to us. But we are invited to come to God, just as we are, and to invite others to come, just as they are. We are not asked to do God's work in order to oppress and change others. We are invited instead to do God's work by humbling ourselves and knowing God's blessings in the unique gift of others.

Today I ask God to help me listen to others and see God's hand in their lives. May we strip ourselves of those things that keep us from loving others. May we serve God by serving others today.

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Good Measure, Pressed Down

Jesus said, "Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back."
He also told them a parable: "Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, `Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye.
"No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks." Luke 6:37-45

A Good Measured Pressed Down 

The steps we take today
the letting go and giving away
will bind us up or set us free
make us abundant or poor in heart.

We live in a world where beauty
bought and sold, youth patented
judgement now our entertainment
ridicule the circus of the moderns.

Come be a sweet fruit of love
grow from the tender shoots
let the warmth of the sun surround
and let go of the soul's deep darkness.

There is enough for every one
plenty abounds when hope restored
when sharing make community strong
when self is always part of a whole.