Sunday, August 30, 2015

Clean Hands

Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?" He said to them, "Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,
    'This people honors me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me;
    in vain do they worship me,
    teaching human precepts as doctrines.'
You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition."
Then he called the crowd again and said to them, "Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."  Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

We are visiting with my mother-in-law for several days. She is notorious for asking whether folks had washed their hands. She's a real stickler about it and we often joke around about her cleanliness bordering on OCD. She is a pharmacist by training and knows all too well how sick people can get when they don't wash their hands. We attended church with her last night at Immaculate Conception and her priest talked about the challenges of a keeping a clean heart. Washing hands is relatively easy. Ridding ourselves of our selfishness, judgmental attitudes and destructive behaviors are much harder. No matter how much soap we use, we cannot clean our hearts. We need God's help for that.

The faith leaders wanted to find fault in Jesus and his followers. The disciples didn't keep the traditional ways of their elders. They followed Jesus and took seriously the need to be humble and live a simple, shared life. We are invited by God to be like those early followers of Jesus. We are invited to cleanse our hearts, to live humbly and seek God's help with all our trials and tribulations. We can wash our hands, but we are also invited to wash out those things and behaviors that keep us from relationship with God and our neighbor.

Today I ask God to help me cleanse my heart and seek forgiveness from those I have injured, May our work be that of seeking God and neighbor, living simply and humbly with all we encounter today.
 



Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Conflict in the Garden


Immediately, while Jesus was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. Then they laid hands on him and arrested him. But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.” All of them deserted him and fled.
A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked. Mark 14:43-52 
We are visiting with my 89 year old mother-in-law in Western Pennsylvania. She is feisty and active, still driving and getting around. She has been a widow  for almost 30 years. After 40 years I have learned to navigate the situation pretty well. Families are complicated, particularly when couples come together from very different  back grounds. Families can be hard on each other, even when trying to be welcoming and nice, judgement and misunderstanding can happen. The family garden can be a scary place, and yet we are invited to go, to seek God in the midst of confusion and contradictions.
Jesus is betrayed and the responses from the disciples are varied and complicated. Hours before they sat as a family and now they were torn asunder as Jesus was arrested. The high drama caused more violence and fear, folks fleeing and striking out. We humans often respond to complicated situation by fleeing and getting violent. God invites us to seek yet another way, the way of inviting God to finish the drama, God to finish the action.
Today I ask God to help me be patient with every one and every thing. May the conflicts we face invite us to seek God's completion, God's understanding of the challenges and God's completion of the drama we are in.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Last Meal Together

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."
When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Mark 14:12-26
Since losing my Mom I have thought often about her great joy in having many people around the table and filling them with good food. It made her very happy and we spent many countless hours around our dining room table with family, friends and a few trouble makers too. She appreciated people who appreciated simple, good food, and was not fussy about who joined us at the table. The more the merrier she thought and loved having her family and friends gathered together.
We all know the last supper, depicted in so many works of art, and recalled on Sundays as we share communion. It always depicts the twelve and Jesus alone. I am convinced, by everything said by him before, that there were many more folks around that table, including a couple women like my Mom, enjoying the cooking and taking it all in. No meal is an isolated event but rather a collection of folks who prepare and serve, as well as those who sit down and are served. Jesus invited us to come to a very complicated table, with the goodhearted and the deceitful as well. 
Today I ask God to help me enter into the complicated tables of my life with the joy and hopefulness my mother taught me. May we all remember that there is no perfect table, but rather a welcome seat among the poor and lame, the joyful and the sad, the gentle and the cruel. God sits at table with us when we open our hearts to others.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

One Alabaster Jar


It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; for they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.”
While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”
Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him. Mark 14:1-11 

One Alabaster Jar
The days had tumbled by too fast
she had held back her heart too long 
the daily tasks had consumed too much
she needed to break open the alabaster jar.

There was nothing she could give that was enough
nothing she could do to repay him in kind
not a single thing could make up for the gift
of love from a broken alabaster jar.

One alabaster jar of fine perfume
the whole room overcome with exotic aroma
the rich and poor stopped in their tracks
as love poured from the open jar.

A full heart and a face full of tears
everything washed over the teacher's head
love from above had been the gift and sign
creations loveliest gift poured back again.

Love medicine is divine and grounded
tears and laughter, a meal and a song
the hard work of loving is a priceless endeavor
and we will remember her for all lives long.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Keep Awake

Jesus said, "From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
"But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake." Mark 13:28-37 
I have to admit that I am one of those people who can sleep on a plane and many other places. I like sleeping, the comfy, cozy, drowsy world that doesn't demand much at all. When I was carrying my youngest, her older sisters wouldn't allow me on the couch because they knew I would fall asleep immediately. Some people struggle to fall asleep at night. I struggle to wake and definitely shouldn't be talked to without coffee in me. 
Jesus continues to prepare his disciples for a life without him. They want magic and he advises them to be grown ups. He tells them that love takes courage, persistence and paying attention. There are no magic little creatures that are going to sweep in a fix the messes we have made. And yet, God is always with us, giving us the strength and courage we need to face the tasks ahead. And God is also inviting us to take rest when we need it and care for ourselves so we can be strong for others.
Today I ask God to help me see what is around me. May we all respond to the call and direction of the Creator. May we be ready and awake when called upon today.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Built on the Rock

Jesus said, "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.
"Why do you call me `Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I tell you? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house." Luke 6:43-49

I have spent my life building sand castle and watching the wash away. I have spent thousands of hours as my children built sand castles that disappeared with the tide. I love the sand and the ocean and feel they are an essential part of my being. And I also know how necessary it is to be grounded in faith and love. I come from a long line of faithful people.I am blessed to have an incredibly faithful and loving family and group of friends. I know that when I am overwhelmed I can lean on others who will help me through. They show me what it is to be founded on rock solid, not moving, going nowhere kind of love.

Jesus is talking to his disciples about taking on the challenge of faithfulness and love. We can be selfish and shallow, lazy and self-serving or we can be faithful and grounded, loving and serving. One is the easy way and one is a daily challenge. God invites us to take on the daily challenge of love, a love which does the hard work of being consistent, building for the future, securing an safe place for all refugees and making enough so others may also thrive.

Today I ask God to help me be a strong and faithful presence for others. May our lives be so grounded in our Creator and our love so evident that others might find refuge and safety too.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Difficult Teaching

Jesus said, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever." He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.  When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?" But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, "Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father."
 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." John 6:56-69

We have had the great joy of a visit from a long time friend and her grandson. We've been friends for nearly 40 years. It was a delight to sit an visit until the wee hours, talking and laughing, remembering old times and sharing the challenges of our lives. Being parents and grand parents, there was much hard ship to share. There were tons of blessings and successes too.  Living life for the ones we love and offering love to the broken and needy, we are challenged every day. Loving is difficult, disciplining and training up children is difficult, helping grown children is forever challenging and sharing our stories always lightens the load.

Jesus was telling his disciples things they did not want to hear. They thought following God and loving others should be easy. We all want it easy but truly loving is hard work. We have to forfeit our fake dreams and become our real selves. We have to put aside the fantasy of perfect parenting and live into full blown tough reality of loving always, especially when it is hard. God invites us to see our challenges as part of following, part of the work that is God's and ours to share.

Today I ask God to help me live every day girded for the the work of love. May we all live in the service of others, knowing our work is loving others beyond the daily hurdles, struggles and grave disappointments.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Endurance

As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!" Then Jesus asked him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down."
When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?" Then Jesus began to say to them, "Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, 'I am he!' and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs.
"As for yourselves, beware; for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them. And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations. When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved." Mark 13:1-13 

One of the challenges to family life is sibling relationships. I had four (now three) living siblings - three sisters and one brother.  At various different times growing we have gotten along well, and had the occasional falling out. As adults we drifted apart, chose very different lives, and have found it hard to be together at times. But together we are, whether we like it or not and it is our work, our calling, to find ways to be a family despite the losses we have faced. We are bound together by love and by generations of those who have endured to the end despite terrible odds and uncertain futures. Even apart we are together in the struggle, in the day to day tasks to make it until tomorrow. 
The disciples are concerned about the future and Jesus lays it out pretty bluntly. There are massive challenges ahead, and it will be extremely difficult not to strike back at the violence and the hatred, the abuse and the dishonesty. Jesus tells it like it is - is going to be. Although we face nothing like the first disciples did, we daily face challenges that make us want to throw in the towel. We want to give up and take care of number one- disregarding everyone else. We want to give up on the love and faith we have inherited, just as they were tempted. We are invited to live one day at a time expecting solutions for tomorrow and completion in the end. 
Today I ask God to give me the strength to endure one more day. May we live today with the hope for solutions and faith that love will restore all that is broken. May we live beyond our fear and grief reaching, with all those tireless ancestors, toward the goal of finding ourselves in the loving arms of our Creator.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Vineyard

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."
Then he 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'?"
When they realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowd. So they left him and went away.  Mark 11:27—12:12 

The Vineyard
It is our arrogance and blindness
we think we own this place forever
we misuse the people who help us
and think we deserve this abundance. 

We are simply visitors on this island
strangers on a circling orb we did not create
this garden paradise shared for all generations
and we hoard and store and will not give.

There is no absentee landlord ignoring us
instead watching carefully and sighing
wondering how we can possibly care so little
and do so much collateral damage.

The ancients sing to the vineyard's heartbeat
there is always enough for everyone
take care of the fragile vines and little ones
they will someday produce the most.

We are not ever alone in this paradise
there is a bounty of possibility if we would see
if we would but turn and offer to the stranger
we would find that we are finally home.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Do Not Doubt


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 11:12-26 
When I was a little girl, one of my favorite books was the Little Engine that Could .It has always inspired me, even as an adult, to remember the power of faith. When we are feeling like the world's against us and we are too small, it is important to remember the power and promise of faith. I never felt adequate for the tasks ahead, growing up, and often feel that way as an adult. We are only human and given to those days when we are overwhelmed and feeling weak facing insurmountable odds.
Jesus had taken the temple and Jerusalem by storm and made the religious leaders put a price on his head. Their way of life was torn asunder and they were angry and afraid. Everyone was spellbound by his teaching which made them even more angry.  The impossible was becoming impossible and out of their control. The next morning the disciples pointed out the fig tree, which gave Jesus an opportunity to talk to them about faith. We are invited to see our belief, our power, our strength, embedded in the strength and power of the living God of love. We are never alone in our faith. We are made stronger as we put all doubt aside. God promises to make the impossible possible.
Today I ask God to give me the strength to put aside all doubt. May we all be like the little engine, facing an enormous hill. May love drive us, may compassion spur us on and may God give us the faith to drive out all doubt so that the impossible may become possible for those in great need today.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Abide in Me

Jesus said, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" So Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever." John 6:51-58

I was not brought up in a liturgical tradition and did not see communion as the center of worship as a child. Growing up a PK and a Presbyterian meant regarding the Word as central to all of our common worship. We read the bible at home at the meal table. The Bible was the focus of all that I thought of as church. When I came into the Episcopal Church I was blown away by the centrality of the Eucharist, the daily and weekly practice, and the mystery of the liturgy that invites us all to the table. I am still transformed Eucharist by Eucharist by the primal nature of faith, by the partaking in very physical and real elements that make us abide in Christ, and he in us.

Jesus is answering his critics as he often does. Some of the religious leaders wanted to paint him as insisting on cannibalism, or some other horror. They wanted to paint him with an evil brush. Instead, Jesus invites them (and indeed us) to the table. We are invited to the family table, to become one with the love of God made flesh. We are welcomed, wanted and beckoned to the table. A small morsel of offering becomes our great relationship - we are embedded in the heart of God.

Today I ask God to make me know the love of God within my own flesh. May we experience the love of God, abiding in us, and make welcome those near and far to the table. May our hands be open and our hearts full of God abiding with us, however simple and humble our place might be.







 The Collect

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Blind See

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 

The Blind See
A man without sight all his life
crying our along the dusty road
others passed right on by
but one was moved to kindness.

One heart moved to kindness 
moved by the cries of need
we know the needy one as Bartimeus
he knew his healer as teacher, rabbi.

Every day we cross a road
pass by the cries of the world's offspring
we cling to our safety and chores
never to know the gift of kindness.

Let us linger this day on the road
regaining our sight and our hearing
today may we see the need around us
responding with kindness today.
 
 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

On the Road

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 have spent a good deal of time on the road, both as a child in the back of  my parents old Chryslers, and as an adult, doing my best to serve God and family. The company we keep on the road deepens our relationships and our commitments, and we find insight and meaning as we move beyond where we are comfortable. Being on the road, we are exposed. Being on a journey we have never arrived. We can get frightened and amazed, bored and overwhelmed on the road. But the adventure is always worth our time, and the people are often strangers who become family to us.
Jesus is on the road with his disciples. This is his final journey to Jerusalem with them. They are amazed and frightened, unbelieving of his predictions. They want security. James and John ask for secured seating arrangements. They are not theirs to have, and it upsets the other disciples. But the other disciples were all thinking the same things. Give us security, as we feel so afraid right now. Jesus invites them to think, not of security but of service. It is in that service, where we are free. In that slavery of love, we are raised up with him.
Today, I ask God to help me let go of my wishes for perfect security and trust the life we have on this journey of love. May we trust that we are cared for and guided, as we offer ourselves for the care of others today.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

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 
I have never been one to want tons of money, although I do occasionally dream of how nice it would be to win the lottery. Most of our lives we have struggled to make ends meet, choosing lives of service rather than lives dedicated to making tons of money. And yet, our possessions and status can possess us. And I am as guilty as anyone of not seeing the need around me, and not sharing the abundance God has given us.
A wealthy young man comes to Jesus and gets the answer he does not want to hear. He has to give up his lifestyle, his comfort, his identity of privilege in order to see God's kingdom, God's treasures. And to him it seems an impossible task, like a camel through the eye of the needle. Jesus knows that none of us can save ourselves, but that God invites us to lean hard on the promises of love, that God is acting for us when we can't and helping us move from blind selfishness to love fully aware - the kingdom of God.
Today I ask God to help me in my weakness, my blindness and my selfishness. God help us all to let go of our comforts so that the helpless can be comforted. God help us to see the need around us and act as those humble enough to be citizens of God's realm here on earth.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Let the Little Children


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 10:13-16

Let the Little Children

They are gentle and slightly wild
full of dreams and dandelion dust
they look at us hoping for a clue
simply asking to be warmly embraced.

They are not broken and bent yet
not defensive and greedy for money
they are not looking to push others away
but looking to have a place at the table.

Our Creator who have us be like them
like we were once full of trust and love
the hands that fashioned the  dancing stars
invites us to dance once again.

We can live by laws and judge
we can shut out all that we fear
or we can get up and dance again
taking the hand of the neighbor near.

So let the little children come again
teaching us how to love and dream
let them show us the way to sing full voiced
and never be ashamed of love again.

Monday, August 10, 2015

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 
 One of the latest food crazes is salted caramel desserts. Folks are adding salt to sweet things to temper them, to bring out the flavors more profoundly, and to highlight by contrast the sweetness. Specialty salts are also very popular. When we were in Sitka, Alaska, there was a very flavorful salt from our island that had profound depth and a unique taste. It was expensive but only a little was needed because of it's intensity.
The disciples had been arguing about who was first among them and Jesus had put a small child in their midst. They are still trying to fathom his words. He reminds them of the importance of humility and sacrifice. They all needed to be tempered to bring out their unique gifts. Their willingness to be humble and sacrificial would make them truly whole. God invites us to be tempered and humble, to offer up those things that pull us away from being loving and at peace with our neighbors.
Today I ask God to help me offer up those things that get in the way of service and peace. May we live, willing to be tested and tried for the sake of others. May our lives always bring peace to the world around us as we let go of the pride that can destroy us.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

A Child Among Them

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, "The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again." But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.
Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the way?" But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, "Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all." Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me."
John said to him, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us." But Jesus said, "Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward." Mark 9:30-41 

A Child Among Them
Wise ones counsel together
foolish ones compete for the prize 
small ones seek comfort in sweetness
grown ones seek fame and finance.

Leaders need to learn following
followers ache to learn leading
all of the dancers in a circle round
stepping and swaying to the drum.

The heartbeat of the Creator
invites us to be like our young
to move through the world softly
trusting the day to the maker.

In the market on the street
young ones are abandoned
they have so much to teach us
and we have so much to learn.

 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Casting Out


When they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. When the whole crowd saw him, they were immediately overcome with awe, and they ran forward to greet Jesus. He asked them, "What are you arguing about with them?" Someone from the crowd answered him, "Teacher, I brought you my son; he has a spirit that makes him unable to speak; and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so." He answered them, "You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me." And they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, "From childhood. It has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us." Jesus said to him, "If you are able! All things can be done for the one who believes." Immediately the father of the child cried out, "I believe; help my unbelief!" When Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "You spirit that keeps this boy from speaking and hearing, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again!" After crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, "He is dead." But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he was able to stand. When he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, "Why could we not cast it out?" He said to them, "This kind can come out only through prayer." Mark 9:14-29 
We all have days when we feel as if we simply cannot do it any more. We may be overwhelmed by jobs, or loss, or the needs of our family. We may be overwhelmed by our fears and inward terrors, our failures and the demons of our past and present. Whatever, we humans are all overwhelmed and overcome some days. We cannot do much alone, but some days, we all the power of heaven to just get us through.  It is those days when only prayer can get us through, only prayer can find us release, only prayer can right our sinking ships. And only God breath in our lungs, God's word on our lips, God's touch in our hearts, will restore us to life.
Jesus finds the disciples trying desperately to heal a tormented child. The presence of Christ, the presence God is only thing that changes this scene at all. They whole crowd is beside themselves, torn up by failure and dashed hope. It is only God in our midst, God down from the  mountain, love incarnate right here in the middle of our great mess, that brings about a new lease on life. We are invited today to pray when overwhelmed, praying without ceasing until God is in our midst.
Today some people are having their worst day eve. May God use us all to be that loving presence, the praying friends, the people who will help bring the presence of God into the midst of our worst and most debilitating circumstance.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Up On The Mountain

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

Up On the Mountain

The struggle to climb rewarded
a view distant and precious
thin clean air no filters here
alone to dream and pray.

We have come for a moment of rest
a reflection time to connect again
a place apart from the maddening need
a sanctuary made by God.

We are closer to the sun closer
always to our impending ends
what we could not hear on the dusty road
truth absorbed almost silently.

Stunned by the truth fear arises
like storm clouds in our hearts
we touch the sky and fear our falling
as God's light touches down to earth.

We are confused and frightened
our friend's  full deity revealed
his idle tales become our road map now
we descend to walk forever changed.

We have glimpsed the heaven open
heaven open to us fools and fishermen
heaven open to the weak and lowly
heaven beckons to the thief as well.

We are earth bound mortals promised
to become the spirits on high
made of dust and clay and stardust
we will touch the mountain tops again.

 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Followers

Jesus called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels." And he said to them, "Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power." Mark 8:34 - 9:1 
 I had the opportunity to visit York Harbor Maine for a meeting. After the meeting concluded, my husband and I drove up to see the lighthouse, listen to the ocean and smell the salt air. My home for so long has a lighthouse and the sights and sounds were comforting and familiar. There was also rain on the way. As we watched, the lightening would illuminate the lighthouse, set on its own island, and would make the sea shine like day, for a second only. Clarity and detail came in these brief flashes of storming light.
Jesus reminds the disciples of the cost of following him. This life is not to be an easy way, but rather a way of life and joy, challenged and painful at many turns. It was not a life of ease and luxury. The taste of death will always be near, and the human fears will not be far off. And God's presence will always be with them. God's presence is always with us. This was a flash of clarity for the disciples, a moment where some understood that miracles and misery would go hand and hand. We are not to see the painful challenges of our present as the measure of our worth in God's eyes.
Today, I ask God to help me rejoice in every bit of this day - good and bad alike. May we see clarity in God's call to us, understanding that abundance and challenge are part of the cross we bear. May we be carriers of God's love to this world, trusting that we are never alone as we walk for love.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Leftovers


 The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, ‘Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.’ And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side.
 Now the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, ‘Watch out—beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.’ They said to one another, ‘It is because we have no bread.’ And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?’ They said to him, ‘Twelve.’ ‘And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?’ And they said to him, ‘Seven.’ Then he said to them, ‘Do you not yet understand?’ Mark 8:11-21

We live in a country where there is so much plenty and so much scarcity. We live in a world that is likewise plagued with an imbalance. Some have so much while others have so little. And yet God's world is one of abundance. The earth we live on is producing enough for everyone. We hoard and  pile up and still we worry.

Jesus has provided miracles of healing bodies and filling the hungry and yet the religious leaders are testing him still. Even his disciples are confused and think he's being critical of their lack of planning. We are reminded today that there is plenty and God's intention for us is to live abundantly, sharing what has been given freely with others. And yet we regularly, like the disciples don't trust God's intentions and think we must hold all the goods and hide everything away.

Today I ask God to give a generosity of spirit with everyone. May we see the need around us and respond, trusting that God will provide for all of our needs. May we live into the capacity of love and generosity for which we were created by God.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Never Hungry or Thirsty

The next day, when the people who remained after the feeding of the five thousand saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" Jesus answered them, "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 6:24-35

Sunday is coming to a close. Although I try to write my blog in the morning, some days get away from me. Today was a day filled with family. A day of laughter and stories, a day of eating and relaxing and catching up. It happens too infrequently for my liking so I made the most of it. A feast of family. There is something very nourishing and filling about being with the ones I love. They fill me to the brim with joy and hope.

The people want signs and miracles of food from Jesus. He gives them love and a relationship that  never fails. It is the kind of relationship that fills us up with hope and joy, a love that last in the darkest of our days. We often want the food and pleasures that are temporary. We find out how quickly we can be hungry again. But in God's love, we are full and sated all the time. We may not be awed, moment by moment, but we are full of hope and promise at all times.

As this day ends, I ask God to bless all the people that help me know God's love in my life. May God bless each of us as we strive to share the good fruits of God's love in our lives - the fullness of love that knows no end.