Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Vine and Branches


Jesus said, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete." John 15:1-11 

Vine and Branches

Intertwined bent back together
under and over woven as one
survival depends on mutual care
good earth and abundant rain.

Love binds us and builds us
turns us remakes us pulls us
from the clay to rise sun-ward
rejoicing in the heart of God.


Storms come to destroy us
fools climb and pull us apart
we are a puzzle the Creator formed
turning so that all ay live.

Love binds us and builds us
turns us remakes us pulls us
from the clay to rise sun-ward
rejoicing in the heart of God.


Abiding depending singing together
harmony and contrast different gifts
diversity of form and function
yet all one together deeply rooted.

Love binds us and builds us
turns us remakes us pulls us
from the clay to rise sun-ward
rejoicing in the heart of God.


They will come to feast and destroy
greed and envy in their hearts
we might be in time be torn apart
but we will be knit together again.

Love binds us and builds us
turns us remakes us pulls us
from the clay to rise sun-ward
rejoicing in the heart of God.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled

 
Jesus said, "I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them." Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, "Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?" Jesus answered him, "Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
"I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, 'I am going away, and I am coming to you.' If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us be on our way." John 14:18-31
 
What is ahead in our lives is still a bit unclear. We know our time is ending in Alaska at June's end, but we don't know all of the details of the next years. We are on the cusp, with gratitude for all we have experienced and hopefulness with what lies ahead. And yet there is anxiety and much to do. It can cause one's heart to be troubled. Being on the edge, on this liminal, in between time, can be very powerful and quite unnerving. Sometimes all we can do is trust and pray.
 
John's gospel tells us of Jesus' reassurance to his disciples. Aware the days to come will be harrowing, he is trying to help them see the bigger picture. Helping them see that they are rooted in the heart of God and that God is in charge. God will see them through and deliver peace beyond measure. They must have been very puzzled by these words and yet, I troubling times, held fast to these promises. And so must we. When we face troubling days and times when we are overwhelmed and unclear how to proceed, we are invited to rest in the promise that God has made a home with us. We are not alone in the transitions and changes we face. God is with us and will bring us peace.
 
Today I ask God for a deep measure of peace. May we remember that God has truly taken up residence with us, that we are infinitely bound to the Creator and woven into the love of the Divine. May we live that trust and make love our only task today.
 
 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Humility




Though in the form of God,  Christ Jesus did not cling to equality with God,  but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, and was born in human likeness.  Being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.  Therefore, God has highly exalted him and given him the name above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:6-11


Mondays are humble days, the week starting again and us trying to find a way to rise. I love the look of children who have just woken up, not in control of anything, trying to find their bearings in the world. We are actually all like that when we wake up, not trying to control things but just putting one foot in front of the other. For me, that is where humility begins, in the heart of a child, not trying to control anything, but rather, trying to get down the road and happy to embrace all the friends and love that comes my way. Humility is admitting we don't have all the answers, we don't always do what is right and we need help all along the road.

Jesus found himself in human form, says the writer of Philippians. We all find ourselves born in human form. Unfortunately we think being human means getting ahead, getting the drop on the other, having it all, keeping it all to ourselves. Christ's example of incarnation, living in human form, is to let love be our guide. Daily. Letting the love of God and others make us offer ourselves humbly to the day and to the world. Loving invites us to let go of control, let go of winning, walking awhile as a child in love with life. Love breeds gratitude, daily.

Today I ask God to help me live simply and humbly today. May my words and actions bring God's love to the foreground. May I rejoice today in my humanity, knowing that Christ was willing to be like me. May we all come to gratitude through loving God and loving our neighbor, as we humbly walk together on this rare and wondrous journey.
 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

On a Journey

 
So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, if indeed, when we have taken it off we will not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil. 2 Corinthians 4:16 - 5:10
 
On a Journey
 
Far away and nearby home
walking by faith through valleys
deep fears and dark sorrows rise
and music rises up to save us.
 
The rocking of rails and decks
hums of jets and rattle f the props
the windy  highway  screaming, sighing
the love begins to sing again.
 
There is no  final destination
we return home to set out again
we have to spread what we made us
and sing the star dust music again.
 
We are alone and rattled surrounded
wealthy strangers leer and laugh
they cannot find their way inside
the music of celestial kindness.
 
Far away and nearby home
we will walk on sand, gravel and mud
we will carry our songs with us
and hum the constant promises of love.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Idle Tales



But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened. Luke 24:1-12

Mary's Journal

 I am on my way back to Nazareth and won't be able to write for a while. We have been waiting around for days as the disciples huddled together, fearful and anxious, not knowing what to do. They can't seem to decide whether we are truthful or not, they are afraid of the authorities who they believe want them dead. They cannot leave until they know for sure what has happened to Jesus, truly. Some believe us and others do not. So they argue. I want to go home. My family needs to know what I have witnessed with my own eyes. They need some closure and I am sure the rumors they are hearing are frightful.

We will rise up early and be home before the sun sets for the Sabbath. My children and grandchildren need to hear the story, the whole story. I am sure the crucifixion and the missing body have made it to them. But they need to know what I know. They need to know that God showed us that Jesus lived and died to be resurrected, taking victory over death. They need to know that God is working even when we are in the tomb, even when all hope is gone. I need to see my children, and their little ones. I need to hold them in my arms and reassure them. For all I have lived through, all God has asked of me, they deserve to know the whole story.

My prayer this day is for speedy travel and safe home. May my children and grand babies, who I know are so worried, be reassured and joyful. May they see that all our lives have meaning and there is hope in God even when everything is dark. Gracious God, let me carry your love home today.
 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Telling the Story

 
 
After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, 'He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.' This is my message for you." So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
Suddenly Jesus met them and said, "Greetings!" And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."
While they were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened. After the priests had assembled with the elders, they devised a plan to give a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them, "You must say, 'His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.' If this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story is still told among the Jews to this day.
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. Matthew 28:1-16
 
Telling the Story
 
None will believe our  tales
we are women, old and widowed
prostituted and without means
our story sounds like fiction.
 
The strong arrogant soldiers
passed out in fear and terror
we faced head on the truth
that love had set him free.
 
They will make up stories
and take bribes and cover themselves
with heroic tales blaming
scorned women bent with age.
 
We will carry the burden
the fire we will kindle
we will fan the flames
love beat death forever.
 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Disbelief


Now after he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went out and told those who had been with him, while they were mourning and weeping. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.
 After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.  Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.’ Mark 16:9-18

Mary's Journal

It is hard to tell such an unbelievable story. It's true, I touched my son with my own hands and held him again but the disciples don't want to believe us. They are so afraid. The authorities have sought them out to question them about his missing body. The disciples believe that the government will take them all away and kill them. They are in hiding for fear of their lives and have hidden us away also.

We women can't control our excitement and want to tell everyone, but we have been cautioned not to do so. We keep to ourselves as much as possible, but the folks in the market notice things are different. They expect women in mourning and we don't look like that. Fortunately, the local people here are all outcasts themselves and don't trust the authorities. We don't worry that they will turn us in.

My prayer today is that the despair and disbelief will turn into joy. May the light of new life somehow seep into the broken hearts and hurting souls of our loved ones and friends. May Christ reveal himself to those who desperately need to know that God's love has conquered death and that our joy will return again.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Empty Tomb

 
 
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint Jesus. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?" When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, "Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you." So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. Mark 16:1-8
 
 
The Empty Tomb
 
I have gone back over it and over it
rolling the pictures in my mind
shaking every time I think that we
found an empty tomb.
 
We felt an earthquake and the guards fled
leaving us to face this terror alone
we held each other close as we looked
inside the empty tomb.
 
The angel greeted us sweet and mild
we could not help but scream
sisters and mothers together in shock
at the sight on an empty tomb.
 
Hot tears, delight and fear took us
we have been able to speak or sing
unable to contain the joy we know
finding the empty tomb.
 
The world around us buzzes
a plot, a scheme imagined
we witnessed God's miraculous love
we found an empty tomb.
 
How do we live these days beyond?
how will we tell our story now?
We are they who ventured out early
and found an empty tomb.
 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A New Day Dawns

 


After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, `He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.' This is my message for you." So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, "Greetings!" And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me." Matthew 28:1-10



A New Day Dawns - Mary's Journal 

It is still hard for me to believe. I have no idea how to wrap my mind around what happened today! We women have been huddled together for the past days, waiting until the Sabbath was over and we could go out and anoint my son's body. We had gathered the herbs and oils we needed yesterday after sundown, and sat in the kitchen talking. None of us has any desire to relive the horror of the crucifixion, and I was reluctant to see his bloodied and battered body once again. But it had to be done.

We got out to the tombs early - before sunup - hoping to go quietly and unseen. The men had given us money to pay for the guards to move the stone, and we were praying there would be no trouble. I could not bear to get close to the tomb until it was all arranged, so Mary Magdalene went first and found the guards sleeping. Right before she woke them, a huge noise like an earthquake happened, and she noticed that the stone rolled away. She started screaming and we all ran to her. The guards came to see what the commotion was all about. When he saw the stone rolled away,they also screamed in horror for they were stationed there to prevent robbers and crazy people stealing Jesus' body.

 Mary crept near the tomb and was greeted by an angel. We all drew close and witnessed this. The guards shook in their boots like little boys and finally ran away. The angel told us that my son had risen, that he was alive! I feel to my knees in shock. The others helped me up and led me in. The angel showed us the burial linens, still soaked in blood. His blood. We were instructed to go on to Galilee and that he would meet us. I could hardly catch my breath for the joy and fear all rolled into one. The other women were in shock also, as none of them had witnessed angels visiting. That was the one thing that was not so surprising to me. Once the angel left us we took off as fast as our feet would carry us.

As we got to the edge of the garden we all stopped suddenly. There he was! My son, my beautiful boy! Restored to life, beaming like a young child. We all embraced him, crying, laughing and praying. He touched my face and lifted me up. The love in his eyes told me everything. It was finished. All that we had suffered, the displacement, the shame and abuse, the violence and horror. Love took it all away, for this is what God had wanted all along. For love to be victorious. For love to set us all free. Fear and death were defeated and love won out over all.

We are waiting for the disciples to return. They may not believe us but we will make them go with us to Galilee. I am a mess of emotions - so much joy after so much grief. I can barely talk or eat. I find myself giggling and then crying like a little girl. This life and these bodies of ours are so magnificent and so fragile. And yet God had promised there is more to life, and there is always more love.

This is my simple prayer on this splendid day - that God will help me to be fearless for here on out. I have lived through such loss and sorrow. And yet God has shown me there is more - more life and more love. May my heart be ever focused on more life, more love.




The Collect
O God, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Mary's Lament


Lord, God of my salvation,
   when, at night, I cry out in your presence,
let my prayer come before you;
   incline your ear to my cry.


For my soul is full of troubles,
   and my life draws near to Sheol.
I am counted among those who go down to the Pit;
   I am like those who have no help,
like those forsaken among the dead,
   like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
   for they are cut off from your hand.
You have put me in the depths of the Pit,
   in the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
   and you overwhelm me with all your waves.
        
You have caused my companions to shun me;
   you have made me a thing of horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
   my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call on you, O Lord;
   I spread out my hands to you.
Do you work wonders for the dead?
   Do the shades rise up to praise you?
         
Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
   or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
Are your wonders known in the darkness,
   or your saving help in the land of forgetfulness?


But I, O Lord, cry out to you;
   in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Lord, why do you cast me off?
   Why do you hide your face from me?
Wretched and close to death from my youth up,
   I suffer your terrors; I am desperate.
Your wrath has swept over me;
   your dread assaults destroy me.
They surround me like a flood all day long;
   from all sides they close in on me.
You have caused friend and neighbor to shun me;
   my companions are in darkness.  Psalm 88


Mary's Lament

Oh Lord, we cried all night
widows and women alone
the ancient songs from our youth
became the endless tears that flowed.

Can your love reach down into the grave?
Can you pull us up from this sorrow?
we and bent and torn apart for love
and we wait in hiding afraid.

Not one of us slept last night
the horror and violence of the day
welling up like angry waves on the ocean
we are drowning deep in sorrow.

There are no angels in this border town
no saviors in this slum of outcasts
there is only a mother who has lost her son
and old women grieving together.

This is no sabbath, this is no rest
but a prison of pain and trembling
we gather fragrant flowers and oils
waiting to anoint the dead.

If I could but take his place
if I could but reverse the evil done
I would bear this sorrow with joy
and shed no tears for his broken body.

I am a woman of deep sorrow
shallow breathing is my only food
Inside is the broken mother's  heart
shattering and unwilling to beat.





Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday


Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, "Whom are you looking for?" They answered, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus replied, "I am he." Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, "I am he," they stepped back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, "Whom are you looking for?" And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus answered, "I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go." This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, "I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me." Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest's slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave's name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, "Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?"
So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.
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 around 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.
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. But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?" They shouted in reply, "Not this man, but Barabbas!" Now Barabbas was a bandit.
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to them, "Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him." So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, "Here is the man!" When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him." The Jews answered him, "We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God."
Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, "Where are you from?" But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, "Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?" Jesus answered him, "You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin." From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, "If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor."
When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge's bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, "Here is your King!" They cried out, "Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!" Pilate asked them, "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but the emperor." Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.
So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews,' but, 'This man said, I am King of the Jews.'" Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written." When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it." This was to fulfill what the scripture says,
"They divided my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots."
And that is what the soldiers did.

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, "Woman, here is your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Here is your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), "I am thirsty." A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, "It is finished." Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, "None of his bones shall be broken." And again another passage of scripture says, "They will look on the one whom they have pierced."
After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. John 18:1-19:42

Mary's Diary Day 5

John has hidden me away with the other women. He is afraid for me and rightly so. After all that has happened in the past day, how can anyone feel safe. I thought I understood pain and loss. Never. Never have I experienced anything like this. My son, my sweet dear son sent from God, now taken from me. God made a promise to me -when I said yes to God. I carried him, gave him life and carried the shame and the abuse in our early days. And now he is gone, crucified like a criminal, this sweet child, this gentle gift. Where is God today? Where are the angels to hold me now? What am I to do now?

Maybe writing this down will help me make sense of it all. Last night things seemed peaceful after supper and then suddenly the garden exploded with soldiers. I ran to the garden only to see my son dragged away and the disciples scattering like scared children. I tried to follow but one of the guards knocked me to the ground. Mary Magdalene picked me up and walked me back to my room. She stayed with me and my sister until the early morning, when we decided it might be safe to go out. We could nor find any of the disciples. As we got to the square there was my son, bloodied and beaten with that scoundrel Pilate. The crowd was screaming, "crucify him! " What decent leader asked the crowd about a decision such as this? It was horrible. I was screaming but no one could hear me. Then they led him away.

I could not watch as they pounded the nails in his hands and his feet. I stood away off,  but could hear him in his pain. My sister, Mary and some of the other women held me. I sobbed and sobbed. When he was raised in the air, groaning, I wanted to die. I tried to run and comfort him, but they held me back. Those dying minutes seemed like days. The disciples huddled around us women, praying and crying with us.Oh, his sweet face, matted with blood, lined with such agony and shame. I want to believe God is in this! When they finally took him down, releasing him from the cross, I got to hold him, cradle him in my arms. Oh Lord, that face sweet in death, body torn by the anger and hate of this world. What am I to do now?

I have been sitting here in this hiding place with the other women. Not much to say, really. Tears flow, over and over, as our minds see again the gruesome images of our beloved dying. My son! How could it end like this!

My prayer this night, as I get ready for sleep that I know will not come, is that God will make something good out of this horror. Jesus was born to redeem Israel. Lord God, show me how that is to happen now. Help me remember all you goodness and kindness. Help me to trust in you, despite this pain so deep I no longer want to live. Please dear God, give me a reason to live again.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Maundy Thursday


On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, Jesus's disciples said to him, "Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?" So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, "Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, 'The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?' He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there." So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.
When it was evening, he came with the twelve. And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me." They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, "Surely, not I?" He said to them, "It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born."
While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, "Take; this is my body." Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." Mark 14:12-25 

Day Four In Jerusalem - Mary's Journey

They found where we had set the Passover meal up, finally.  The kind man who let us use his guest room and kitchen was fond on my son. We worked like crazy all day and the disciples helped greatly running errand after errand for me in the city. Without their help, nothing would have been ready on time. The women disciples were amazing, rising before dawn and cleaning, preparing and cooking like they would for their own families. Even their children and husbands came and helped out.

 I am sitting in a quiet kitchen now, as everyone has gone out to the garden, to sit in the cool of the late evening. Jesus did remarkable things tonight.First, he washed all of the dsiciples' feet with such love and care that no one could not help but tear up a little. Then he took the hidden bread and blessed it, sharing  the wine and bread with all of us. He called us all together and told us this would we the last time we would eat together, or drink the wine together. Those words hit me like a wound in my heart. I know we are here in Jerusalem, this most holiest of cities, but I had to go down to the kitchen and cry a while. I get so frightened for him. I know that God is using him. I know that he was born for great glory and challenge, but it is so hard to sit by and watch. I am overwhelmed by exhaustion and anxiety. 

Dear God, this mother is more anxious than I have been in a long time. My child's words filled me with joy and fear. My love grows deeper day by day and yet I cannot help but be afraid. The city that surrounds me in full of threats and accusations. Please, dear God give me peace here in Jerusalem, just as you gave me as we walked that long road to Bethlehem all those years ago. Amen

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Cornerstone



Then Jesus began to speak to them in parables. "A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built a watchtower; then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard. But they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. And again he sent another slave to them; this one they beat over the head and insulted. Then he sent another, and that one they killed. And so it was with many others; some they beat, and others they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' But those tenants said to one another, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this scripture:
'The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord's doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes'?" Mark 12:1-11



Mary's Journal Day 3 in Jerusalem

My son. He seems to be provoking everyone including me. When I ask him to give me some guidance on keeping our traditions and setting up the Seder, he just keeps putting off. I have begun to make the preparations with his women disciples who seem willing to help with anything and everything. I don't know my way around this city and wish I had my ladies at home that always help me. But I will do what I can to keep the Passover, while my son keeps provoking the religious. The stories he tells! They make them crazy with anger and I worry that there will be violence every day. This city is teeming with people, so many religious zealots and others coming for the Holy Days! I miss my quiet country life where we can have our celebrations quietly and reverently. This place is a madhouse. And y son is only making things worse.

Dear God, help me do the tasks and the preparation needed in this strange place. Help me not listen to the gossip and the chatter, but let me be quiet and peaceful in the midst of all this tumult. Help me to be kind and calm, despite the anxiety I feel every minute of every day.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Testing


Again Jesus and the disciples came to Jerusalem. As he was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to him and said, "By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?" Jesus said to them, "I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin? Answer me." They argued with one another, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will say, 'Why then did you not believe him?' But shall we say, 'Of human origin'?" - they were afraid of the crowd, for all regarded John as truly a prophet. So they answered Jesus, "We do not know." And Jesus said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things." Mark 11:27-33 


Mary's Diary Day Two


This is madness. He is constantly provoking the religious leadership and running headlong into trouble. All the years we protected him as a child, hiding him away and living in strange places until things cooled off. And now, he is standing right in the temple, for all the world to see and arguing with the chief priests and scribes. The people who put up with argument and testing the least. I know nothing good will come of this and yet what man listens to his mother. It's as if he has lost all sense. When I ask him he is short with me and tells me he is doing what God tells him to do. I am just trying to keep him safe and alive. He seems to be heading for trouble soon, and I am so frightened for him. I am his mother and can no longer keep him safe. No longer can I do what I have done for so long. I just have to sit on the sidelines, watching and listening. I pray so much these day. I only hope that God is listening to this mother;s heart.

Today, as I sit along on the porch of the temple, I pray that God will keep my child safe. I only want more time, more days with that child, that blessing and challenge, my child. God give me peace as I stand by and watch. Let me not forget all the promises the angels brought, the promises you made, all those years ago.  I will stand by, watching and praying and asking You to be with me now.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Holy Week with Mary


On the following day, when they came from Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard it.
Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying, "Is it not written,
'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? But you have made it a den of robbers."
And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.
In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. Then Peter remembered and said to him, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered." Jesus answered them, "Have faith in God. Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, 'Be taken up and thrown into the sea,' and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
"Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses." Mark 11:12-25 

Mary's Diary - Day One of Holy Week
 
In everything, he is my son, still tender to his mother. And yet in these last days and weeks, he has pushed so hard. And he seems to be stirring up anger from the temple leaders everywhere he goes. I am afraid for him. His followers know that going to Jerusalem is dangerous, but they can't seem to stop him. I talked with Peter and John the other day, and they said they would try to keep him safe. He has something within him, this God-man, my son, which propels him with a fiery spirit, challenging all greed, corruption and abuse he comes across. I have a hard time watching him when he is so fired up. And yet I know he is called to this. I know, because I said yes to God, all those many years ago.  I can't help aching for my child.

He seems to need little sleep these days and he does not eat enough. Although he told me to stay home with the other children, I cannot help but follow him. He does not realize that his life started out on a rugged journey, that rough road to Bethlehem. I cannot help but go with to Jerusalem, although deep in my heart I am very troubled.Our children never stop being our children, and I cannot help but worry and be fearful. My family is all grown and Joseph passed so many years ago. All's that I have left to do is to follow my son, wherever he may go. I thought that they might arrest him today when he cleared the temple. What a mess - the screaming and shouting, animals and people flying at each other -and yet, when things finally settled down, we found ourselves safe and alone. For a moment then, there was peace.

For this mother, Lord God, I pray for peace in my troubled heart. May I hear the words of the angel once more. "Fear not, the Lord is with you!" May the simple faith of my youth return to me, and may God give me the strength for the days ahead.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Take Heart


They came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Jesus stood still and said, "Call him here." And they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take heart; get up, he is calling you." So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man said to him, "My teacher, let me see again." Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way. Mark 10:46-52 

Take Heart

All the shouting and wild complaining
don't want to be left out, bullied, ignored
this crippling condition that noone understands
leaves me a beggar, needy and ashamed.

The silent aches that leave you screaming
the stumbling in the constant darkness
disoriented,feeling so abandoned and alone
there seems no hope for me.

No one has dodged the scars of age
none can live perfect, whole and free
all of us cry out day and  night
"Son of David, have mercy on me!"

There is no sorrow or shame like ours
no hidden or visible disease like it
our burden is too great to bear day after day
we weep in the ashes of our failure.

Take heart! Today God is calling you
spring up and let loose your binding
the Creator calls us each by name
and wants us whole again.

Spring up for love is walking close by
like sweet sunshine after long winter's rain
we will be restored with hope and life
made new with the touch of his hand.




Friday, April 11, 2014

Going Up to Jerusalem


They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again."
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." And he said to them, "What is it you want me to do for you?" And they said to him, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory." But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" They replied, "We are able." Then Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared."
When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, "You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:32-45 

I spent yesterday getting the bulletin ready since my assistant Roberta is out with serious health issues. I have always found that the time leading up to Easter is always a challenging time. Disasters seem to abound. One church I served in lost the organ Holy Week and when my children were young, they always had off from school during this my busiest time. We can feel tested. And we can be overwhelmed. And yet I always make it to Easter and wonder what I was worried and frightened about.

The disciples, after hearing Jesus talk, of the treachery that awaited him, decide this is a good time to argue over who are his favorites. They regress to childish demands despite all the wonders they have witnessed. And we too, tend to regress and try to shore up our importance and our station when we feel threatened and when we are afraid. Jesus asks them to be servants if they truly want to be leaders. He invites us to do the same - when the fear overwhelms us and we find ourselves regressing - to be servant of others in God's name.

Today I ask God to help me serve others when I am feeling insecure and afraid. May we not regress to childish favoritism but rather rise up and go to work for others. May we find God's joy again today as we take care of the least among us and give them respect and honor.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Treasure in Heaven


As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: 'You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.'" He said to him, "Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth." Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 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." They were greatly astounded and said to one another, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible."
Peter began to say to him, "Look, we have left everything and followed you." Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age - houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions - and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first." Mark 10:17-31 

 Treasure in Heaven

We measure our worth by possessions
our image is based on a car, a house
while investing and saving greed creeps in
to all the empty places compassion left.

We think ourselves safe behind the gates
locks and cameras protect our wealth
our children don't walk dangerous streets
they never see the heart of need.

All that we hold tight to is paper bondage
we see our success in the eyes of others
they are so impressed by frail luxury
God weeps for the children of the night.

As we lay our heads down on the pillows
we hear an ancient mourning song
we see the shadows of the hearts once made
by the Creator for love and compassion.

We are that sad young man with questions
who knew the answer but denied others' need
we chase after a Savior who has been always with us
on the streets with the poor, the broken and alone.





Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Blessing Them

 
Jesus left that place and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan. And crowds again gathered around him; and, as was his custom, he again taught them.
Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" He answered them, "What did Moses command you?" They said, "Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her." But Jesus said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female.' 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one flesh.
People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it." And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. Mark 10:1-16
 
We are all children of a living God, blessed over and over again and loved completely. Sometimes we forget that and choose to think less of some people. We want to extract people from our lives for our convenience and pride. Some of the children of God challenge us, undermine us and frustrate us. Those who hurt, abuse and damage have to be separated for the good of all.  We all have been placed in sacred places, journeying on holy lands, an we are called to care for the innocent, the vulnerable and invited to help them see the blessings of God in their lives.
 
I have often struggled with this passage from Mark. The contradiction of the judgment about divorce and the blessing of the children. Jesus was in a culture where women were put aside regularly for convenience and the desires of the husband. It was also Jesus who sat and talked with the woman at the well. Jesus lived within a context that bound and bruised the most vulnerable - women and children - and treated them as merchandise. God invites us to be those who defend the most vulnerable, and people who never see others as merchandise or accessories.
 
Today I ask God to help me reach out to the most vulnerable among us. May we all find blessing in our lives by caring for the least in our midst and by offering them a sense of belonging and hope today.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Salted with Fire

 
Jesus said, "If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.
"For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another." Mark 9:42-50
 
I was a kid who loathed tests of all sorts. I was always scared ahead of time and full of the anticipation of failure. Even as an adult, when the day came for me to defend my dissertation, I was a wreck. I am so sure of failure and disaster. Testing is hard for all of us, and when we are tempted with a leg up, an easy way out, a sure advantage, it is very tempting to give in. But I know when I give in, or when I refuse or ignore the necessary testing, I am giving in to selfishness and taking away from others. Our challenges can be great gifts to others, and can inspire them to face the fire, the testing, the challenges that face them.
 
Jesus was responding to the question of who was greatest in the kingdom. He still had a small child on his lap. He was reminding them that the least were the greatest, and that our job is to lift others up and not to cause others to stumble. It is hard sometimes to put others first. It is hard to live with the consequences of our selfishness, particularly for those who follow after us. Our loving Creator invites us to live sacrificially, living for others, so that we might be a part of the reign of God here on earth.
 
Today I ask God to help me live sacrificially and for others. May we accept the testing and the challenges, knowing that the fires we face are part of our becoming the children of God. May we live caring for the least among us, trusting that we are living the reign of God here on earth.