Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Narrow Gate


Jesus said, "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven." Matthew 7:13-21 

 As a full-bodied, round adult, there are many places that seem tight and small to me. For other, more slender folks, these places would be adequate. I also have a touch of claustrophobia, and don't enjoy being in big crowds and enclosed places. And yet, I love holding loved ones close and snuggling with my children. I love be snuggled and wrapped tight in my bed.
Jesus tells his followers to enter through the narrow gate. This isn't about squeezing into tight places, or being thin, but rather, is about choosing to live humbly and as a servant. Royalty got the wide doors held open for them, the poor and humble entered through the back small places in order to serve. Our lives are to be lived producing good fruit, humble and sharing with others.
Today I ask God to help me enter each day humble and ready to serve. May we all be willing to not shame others, but instead, to make room for all at the table by giving up the best so others may thrive.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Consider the Lilies

Jesus said, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear?' For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
"So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today." Matthew 6:25-34 

Consider the Lilies
Always always I try not to worry
but worry sneaks in as I fall alseep
like a thief in the night stealing time
making me render my heart useless.

Always and always as the snow flies
I think of the winter setting in on us
will we have enough and be warm too
will everyone thrive on the little I provide?

Always and ever the lists are made
the plans and details fretted over
written and rewritten throughout the night
and anxiety steals in again.

And it is God who always and ever
dresses the lilies who have no worries
they rest in deep winter to be retored
and we sigh at their beauty once again. 

Always and for eternity we are more
precious and considered by God
our needs and cares are at the heart of love
and always and ever God does provide.

 
 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Have Salt in Yourselves



 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 afterwards 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.
 ‘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 9:38-50

I grew up near the Atlantic Ocean and spent every hour possible in the water every summer. The ocean is a salty brine and I was always severely " pruney" when finally returning to land. As as child I was always covered in salt and sand and hated to end the day and go home to wash it all away. Covered in the salt of the ocean I felt alive and invigorated. Not everyone likes salt water, but for me, it still makes me feel especially alive and ready for the world.

The disciples were concerned about others doing miracles in Jesus' name. They were afraid, I guess of losing the special-ness of their endeavor. Jesus reminds them that they are to work with others, help others and never be those who tear others down. They are to be life giving and supportive, to be salty - full of life that invigorated and encourages others.

Today I ask God to help me have salt in myself, life and encouragement, and to share that with others. May we be fearless and kind, lively and invigorating, always encouraging and helping others, today and always.


Collect
O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Forgiving

Jesus said, "When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
"Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Matthew 6:7-15 

The snow was coming down thickly in Fairbanks. September isn't even over and winter is upon us. Now the roads are ice covered and no one seems ready completely for this radical change of weather. It's here and we have to deal with what's in front of us. The people in Fairbanks see happy and welcoming of snow. Learning to forgive the challenges ahead of us, forgiving ourselves and others, is how we need to face every new day.

Jesus taught his disciples to pray, simply and honestly, without embellishment and drama. The loving Creator knows our every need, we simply need to acknowledge our dependence and humanity before God. As we pray we open our hearts to God, we become soft and amilable, we become ready for the changes of body, heart and mind.

Today, may I be ready to pray at every moment. May we know our need and offer all that we have to God. May we forgive ourselves and others, making room for the great and miraculous changes of body, heart and mind.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Giving and Prayer


Jesus said, "Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
"So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
"And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
"And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you." Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Giving and Prayer
 

Others often show the world their faith
on a TV monitor and a stage
for all the world to see they are religious
full of themselves and the attention.

They show others how to be Chrsitian
and flaunt their wealth as a sign from God
as the mantle of their authority and piety
never sharing the gifts from God.


Let me be always humble, Lord
circumspect and grateful in all I do
keep me from seeking others'  praise
so I might be enfolded in your arms.

Let me use my hands for sharing
my days for service and love
may my days be filled with bending
and giving away the Creator's love.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Second Mile


 ‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
 ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.   Matthew 5:38-48


When the road is easy, it can be simple to go the extra mile. When the road is rocky and winding, and the next rise is well hidden, then it can be a different story. There are people in my life that make going the extra mile with them almost painful. There are people who tax one's patience and kindness. I wish I was more of a patient person, but I have to admit I am not. And being instructed by God to go the second mile, especially with those who try my patience on the first mile, seems almost impossible tp bear. And that is where we are called, to the empty, uncrowded road, where the easy has been left behind.

Jesus, in his instruction to the disciples (and therefore to us) tells them to go the extra mile, to love their enemies, to live out loud the love God has given us. He calls them to reach deep and find the strength to do what love calls us to do - to love the unlovable, to be patient with the trying, to share what we prize and to let go of control so that love can set the way forward.

Today I ask God to help me live the extra mile, the extra measure, the visible expression of God's love in my life. May we all have patience with the intolerable today, knowing God is even in the midst of our efforts and our frustrations.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

On A Journey

Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, "Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money-- not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them." They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere. Luke 9:1-6

Being away from home can be a challenge and any journey can provide both excitement and great anxiety. We want t make sure we have all we need on our journeys. And yet we can never really prepare for the journey of life. The twists and turns and pitfalls cannot be covered by what we pack in our suitcases. Living on the road really requires a radical move form comfort into relationship.

Jesus is sending his disciples out for the first time. I am sure they showed up with dozens of bags, all sorts of provisions and maybe a wife or mother. He tells them to learn to live by trusting God and the people they will encounter. They must at first have been angered and terrified. None of that is recorded now because by trusting in God's provision, God's constant and abiding love, they found everything they needed and the strength and power to serve.

Today I ask God to help me trust God for everything. As we move forward on this journey may we remember the initial fear and anger of the disciples, which completely dissipated as they continued on. May we trust that God's love will provide more than we can ever imagine, today.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Be Reconciled

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

The air is frosty here in Fairbanks and the leaves are falling rapidly. The winter is coming on fast. What summer allows, a carelessness to the wind and weather, is quickly changing.The endless days of sunlight have disappeared and the dark has crept into the morning. One needs to move from individual pursuits to concern for our neighbors. To a position of being reconciled to the indoors, to sharing heat, and to finding ways to thrive, or at least survive through the winter. Our survival demands a humility and a community focus.

Jesus is responding to our human hearts. We all want to be loved and accepted by others and by God. We often build barriers to love by the chasms of hate and anger that we create. Our thriving depends on our willingness to be reconciled, to ask forgiveness and be forgiven. Our survival and growth depends on our recognizing our frailties and mistakes and removing them as a barrier to love.

Today I ask God to help me rush to forgiving and forgiveness. May we not be focused on our gifts and our pride but rather on love. May love truly rule our hearts today.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Servant of All



Jesus and his disciples went on from there and passed through Galilee. He 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." Mark 9:30-37

Servant of All

Oh you who donate leftovers
used clothes and feel proud
remember the smaller the cost
the lesser the blessings.

Oh you who would pride yourselves
on a night of volunteering
the eyes of those who serve you
know your true selves.

Oh proud and mighty
fighting for family and country
observe the refugees
of the country you destroy.

This little child we welcome
will need constant care
food and shelter and patience
all beyond our capacities.

Serving is backbreaking
there is little reward, fame and thanks
but God is among the servants
and those who serve the neediest.








Collect
Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Fulfill the Law

Jesus said, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:17-20 
Sitting here in Fairbanks working on leadership training. Our goal is to raise up Native leaders in many places across the diocese. We are starting simple, teaching folks to take worship and pastoral roles in their local communities. We are taking folks step by step, making the units small enough pieces to build confidence and practice. Love, the fulfillment of the law, encourages us to share all we have, including the skills and gifts, so that others can thrive and lead. 
Jesus teaches his disciples about living out love beyond the rules.Love's rules are much harder than what we have inherited. It is not simply that we can't covet, or murder, but that we are expected to carry one anothers burdens, live as servants of the poorest among us and live humbly with all people.

Today, as we begin this profound work I ask God to help us work together in the service of others. May we live simply beyond the rules, living as a humble servants of the living Creator who is love incarnate.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Salt and Light



‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
 ‘You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
 ‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. Mathew 5:11-16




Some people just light up a room with their smile and their beauty. Sometimes that light can go dark so easily. Those who live to serve, who are always sweet, kind and loving, who make room for others, and who don't even recognize the impact they have on others - it is these folks who are true light. They are not a bauble, nor a shiny decoration, but rather are shining stars in the darkness, bending their light so that others might see and thrive. They live so others might know the living love of God in their lives. I am blessed to know several people like that. The world may not recognize their light and make them a star, but they are a true treasure for the rest of us.

Jesus is teaching up on the mountain. The disciples are new as a group and these are the core lessons they remember and recalled. They memorized the words because the words changed their lives. When their time with Jesus was complete, they remembered these words that were the heart of their ministries and shared them with all that would listen and they passed them down to us.

Today I ask God to help me be salt and light for others. May we find our blessings as we bring simple gifts to others, as we make room for those who have been pushed to the margin.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Upon the Mountain

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
 ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
 ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
 ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
 ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
 ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
 ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:1-10 

Upon the Mountain

We followed up the mountain side
sat on rocks and in the rough grass
we turned our faces to the teacher
looking upon the mountain.

The words floated to us a melody
of blessing and promise
a golden light surrounding us all
changing us in that radiant moment.

We looked around and saw the feeble
the broken, the weary and the presecuted
becoming beautiful in their need and want
turning from dark despair to bright hope.

We went up and sat on the mountain
our hearts pounding and swelling
our faces beaming with new visions
and our eyes turned the miracle unfolding.

We went up to receive and became
a shining light as we became clothed
in his radiant and sustaining incarnation
of God's love walking the earth.


 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Following


As Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people." Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. Matthew 4:18-25 

I left Boston early yesterday morning and arrived in Helena in the late afternoon. The plane took off from the edge of the vast mysterious Atlantic ocean and the small commuter plane flew into Helena over the breathtaking mountains. Too very different worlds and both, for me, the place to follow and serve. We never do know where we are going to be called, and however grounded we are in some place that we call home, we are drawn to places beyond familiar at all times.
Jesus called his disciples away from everything they know. Lifelong fishermen, who grew up on the edge of the sea, as most of their ancestors did, They went everywhere from there, changed forever by one moment of walking away from the familiar and following. We are invited to follow,  trusting that the blessings we discover will so outweigh the comforts of home.
Today I ask God to help me rejoice in the opportunities ahead. May we follow God's incarnate love into the world, knowing that blessings abound as we move beyond our comfort zones.

Monday, September 14, 2015

God So Loved


Jesus said, "Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
"Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." John 3:11-17 

Yesterday, on the stormy drive home from visiting our daughter Ariel, we were stuck in very slow traffic approaching the Tappan Zee bridge. There's not a lot to do on a Sunday afternoon in the rain, stuck in traffic except for gritch and complain about it all. Over the road, a rainbow appeared, and despite the long rolling back up, despite the lane changers and the honkers, a most beautiful, complete, shimmering rainbow held court. We were mesmerized, captured by such rare and stunning beauty. God's sign to Noah became a sign to us also, that we would find our way home.

This passage from John, so familiar and so famous, reminds us of God's love for us and the whole world. Not for the chosen people alone, not for the wealthy or the gifted - God so loves the world. All of us, whether indigenous, immigrant, migrant or refugee. The whole world in it's infinite variety of shades and colors, unending cultures and expressions - it is this whole world God loves. Today more than ever we need to hear the message and share it.

Today, as I pack for Montana and set my eyes to the next things before me, I give thanks for God's abiding love for us. May we all be grateful for God's love and watch care for each and every one of us. For God so loved the world.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Well Pleased


Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased." Matthew 3:13-17 


All children ache for praise and crave attention. Our present society coddles certain children and others are treated as villains. Some children from privileged families, have so many stars and awards that they believe they are superhuman.. The immigrant children, children of the poor, and many others, are taken away from loving parents and in so doing punished for their poverty. It is only human to desire the love of family and the nod from our Creator. We just want a little encouragement, when we are facing rough waters and challenging seas.
Jesus comes to a place of major transition. It is time to get on with the work he was born to do. He goes to John to be baptized, although John wants to argue. Jesus has a good idea that it is important to submit to the dunking, submit to the dangerous waters, as a preparation for the work ahead. And when we comes up out of the water, they hear they acknowledgement and approval of God by word and sign. And it is important today for all of us to hear and see the approval from God is for all of us. All of us through that baptism are the beloved children of God, equipped with what we need for the work we are called to do.
Today I ask God to help me go deep and get on with the work ahead. May we all hear the voice of God cheering us on, even when the world might be very critical. May this be a day when we feel, see and hear God's love for us as we move forward to serve others.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Rachel Weeping for Her Children

Now after the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”
When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”
When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child's life are dead.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazarean.” Matthew 2:13-23 

Rachel Weeping for Her Children

One infuriated leader and the children die
one manacle sociopath and they are gassed
the poor and hungry wander faceless in camps
refugees tell the story of our dishonesty.

We put up fences to keep the poor and needy out
we give their children inferior schools and food
we turn our backs as Rachel weeps
and she will not, no never be consoled.

The son of God, the long awaited one
a migrant and refugee fleeing into Egypt
for fear of their lives and their little one
they left familiar Bethlehem for foreign soil.

Who of us will welcome the remnant
the wandering innocent children of Rachel?
Who of us unbeknown to us will welcome
the sweet child of the living God?


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Another Way Home


In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’ ”
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. Matthew 2:1-12 
I have had many dreams about my mother  and her home of late. Every summer, and many other times during the year we would gather with her there. We would see old friends. For me and my family, it was home and visiting there was homecoming. We did not go there this summer, it was too soon after losing her. It was the first summer ever that I wasn't there. We are in the process of finding new ways home, new ways to be present in our hometown, new ways and other roads to travel. My dreams always remind me of the love and relationships we have, and that the structures are temporary. We will find another way home.
The wise men from the east saw a star and followed it. They honored the Christ child with fabulous gifts and then sought to return home. But the road home was not safe any longer and their  dreams helped them to carve a new path, a new way home. Sometimes our old roads, our old ways, our old patterns have to pass away. We are reminded today by God that we will be brought back by new ways, and we will find our way home.
Today I ask God to help me face this new road and new directions with complete trust and great joy. May we all trust that the lost familiar ways will not be needed where we are being call, today.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

New Life

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.
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.”
So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it. Mark 16:1-8(9-20) 
The first few days after Labor Day, always seem like the true beginning of a new year. Somehow, January 1st doesn't hold a candle to the first few days of Fall. School begins again, church school and activities start up anew, and it's a whole new year for so many programs and places. We start over, begin again, come indoors and get serious, all over again.  It can be a great challenge to face new life, to start over, to begin again and yet it can also be refreshing, letting newness crowd out our jaded selves.
The women first find the empty tomb and soon the disciples and followers learn the news. The greet the news with a healthy mixture of joy and fear. In Mark's Gospel the appearances were simple, quick and very direct. " Go into all the world." It was a new life for them, scary because they were on their own, exciting because they saw and touched the promise of new life, and eternal life. God promises to renew us over and over again, bringing us back from our worst traumas and our saddest, jaded and despondent places, to new life and new direction.
Today, as we begin a new year, I ask God to give me the strength to go where I am sent with great joy. May the worries of the past be left behind, and may we make space for new life and new opportunities in the days ahead.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Looking On


There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.
When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid. Mark 15:40-47.

Yesterday I had the joy of preaching and celebrating at St. James in Groveland, MA. For the Sunday in Labor Day weekend, it was a well attended service. We talked with folks afterwards about the change in seasons, beginning school days for the kids, and how we never loose that sense of anxiety as a new school year begins, Even if we are looking on from a distance of years, we can remember the drama (and sometimes even the trauma) of the first days of school each year. The years may have softened the anxiety, but we can remember. And looking back to those who fought for what all workers take for granted, we can remember those laid their lives on the line to better things for everyone.
The women disciples were principal actors in the life and death of Jesus. Mark's Gospel often reminds us of them and their sacrifices for the whole community. In his last hours, Jesus was surrounded by faithful women watching in horror as he died. They took care to see where he was buried, Despite the trauma and ugliness of all that was going on,  they put their lives on the line to be present, to be witnesses and activists for the faithful community. God invites us to be like those women who took care of so much, those who put their lives on the line for the whole comuunity.
Today I ask God to help me be ready to put my life on the line for the whole faithful community. May we remember those who have risked their lives so that others may thrive today. And may we be active participants in the service of those who need our help and support around the world.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

My God, My God, Why Have You Frosaken Me?

When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o'clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God's Son!” Mark 15:33-39 
There are days when each of us can feel abandoned by God, overwhelmed by pain, full of shame and ridiculed by others.  I was talking with a friend the other day who had been burned by people he trusted, blindsided by their brutish behavior and devastated by their abuse of power. Their selfish cruelty had nearly destroyed his always loving and hopeful demeanor. What humans do to other humans is horrible, plain and simple, and it happens in every walk of life and most often to the faithful and kind people. To be human is to occasionally feel hung out for abuse, abandoned by God and torn asunder by those who should be friends.
Jesus hung to die, in agony and excruciating pain. He cries out, his humanity bellowing the heartache we all know. Jesus carries our bruised and broken humanity to the cross, bearing the worst others can dish out, all for the sake of the world and each of us. When we are overcome with deep, bone-rattling hurt, we are reminded that Jesus is there with us, crying out on our behalf when our words are spent. We are not abandoned or alone. God is with us even when it feels the whole world has turned on us. 
Today I ask God to help me not live in fear and be strong in the face of those who would hurt me. May we all remember that we go to the darkest places with the company of the Lord of light, the Savoir of the world. May we not fear what is said and done, but go with confidence to the coming days of resurrection and restoration.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Mocking the Crucified


Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.
It was nine o'clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him. Mark 15:22-32 

Mocking the Crucified

This playground is full of danger
bullies and torturers everywhere
soft and gentle children their target
cover from the inevitable torture.

Human nature most basic most vile
teasing the one who is bound and hung
lashing out from safety and strength
at the weak and vulnerable lambs.

Children caught in the crossfire
little ones drown trying to escape
the migrants and refugees scorned
as a scourge on their cosseted neighbors.

Humanity belittling the weak and the poor
who want only to see the open arms of God
who want only welcome and a crumb of bread
and we have sent them packing to die.

 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Carry His Cross

Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor's headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. Mark 15:12-21 

Sometimes we get drawn into things that are not of our making. Sometimes we become participants in a drama that changes our lives. Years ago, when I had just one child and was no where near the idea of seminary, I was walking up onto our beach with my young daughter. I saw something in the surf at the distance and when we got closer I realized it was a body. I asked a friend to take Emily home, and to go call the police. The day before a Coast Guard helicopter had crashed and this was the lifeless body of one of the service men. He was young, in his flight suit and his skin had the waxy white pallor of a newborn infant. I sat by him and prayed and waited for the officials. Something changed at that moment for me, something deep and permanent.

Jesus is being led to his death and falling under the weight of his cross. They compel Simon to carry the cross. He was a passerby, a man on his way home, a man with no responsibility or connection to the horrific drama  unfolding. This moment though, changes his life. We know his name and his family, so he must have been part of the early believers community. His life was shattered and undone and his journey changed forever. A stranger becomes an integral part of our story of faith. God invites us to see that what we might think of as random events might change the course of history - ours or another. Our willingness to participate in others' lives can make us instruments of God's love in the world.

Today I ask God to help me be present to the lives of those chance encounters. May we be those who are willing to carry anothers cross, willing to bear someones burdens. May we all be willing to lend a shoulder and strength so that the world might see God's love actively working in their lives.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Over Jealousy

As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.” Then the chief priests accused him of many things. Pilate asked him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.
Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. Then he answered them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Mark 15:1-11 
I am always amazed how relationships can fall apart over jealousy, and how an innocent can become a victim because of jealousy. Gatherings of adult children in a family can become pandemonium when unspoken jealousy rears it's head. Deep hurts happen when people who love one another don't speak about old jealousies. Years ago I was with a group of women, and we had all been friends as teenagers. Each in turn we talked about how we thought the others had it together and how jealous we were of their stuff- boyfriend, parents, intellect, beauty. We were all wrong about one another and assured each other there was no reason for the jealousy. We shed a lot of tears as we laughed together that night.
Jesus is brought before the crowd by Pilate, who thinks that the jealous madness of the priests would have not infected the crowd. But he was wrong. Jealousy is like that and jealous people can talk a good game about the failings of the target. Despite the fact that Pilate knew of their jealousy, he was helpless to stop the blood thirsty crowd. Our basest human nature wants to destroy those who we think are making us feel less than whole, the people who we are jealous of. We are being invited today to understand how dangerous jealousy can be, and how wrong we can often be about other people. God loves us all intimately and we are invited to focus on that, and not on our shortcomings or our jealousies.
Today I ask God to help me see the good in others and accept them as true gifts from the Creator. May we set jealousy and envy aside, trusting that God is working always for us and there is always more need hidden in others than we can ever imagine.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Going Out Weeping



While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, “You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.” But he denied it, saying, “I do not know or understand what you are talking about.” And he went out into the forecourt. Then the cock crowed. And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.” But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know this man you are talking about.” At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept. Mark 14:66-72 

Going Out Weeping

I had every intention of being strong 
completely supportive and upstanding
fear surrounded me and I choked
broken down against the wall and weeping.

The damned bird herald of dawn
reminds me of my broken humanity
my complete failure to change
and my inability to live up to promises made.

Once I thought myself strong and brave
noe I find myself cowering and hiding
I came out here to stand in solidarity
and crept away into my own solitary shell.

In my shame I can only pray for forgiveness 
lean on God's loving arms and believe
that the one who taught me how to love
has also forgiven my foolishness already. 

In this lightening darkness of new morning
the pain sears through me and I know
that these days will be completed in anquish
and after all the pain there will be more love.