Monday, November 30, 2015

Praying the Psalms - Mary letters day 2


The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.

He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me;
   your rod and your staff— they comfort me.


You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil;
   my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long. Psalm 23


Dearest Auntie,

Today has been so hard, I can barely put it into words. Another girl here has been ridiculed and tortured for her behavior for so long that she gave in to despair. They found her lifeless body at the foot of the cliffs nearby. She may have done some things wrong, but her heart was good and no one should be treated as she was. I too have been on the receiving end of the shaming and shunning. I have held her hand in the past when she was overwhelmed. Why didn't she come to me or someone for help and support?

Auntie, I have been praying King David's psalms to keep myself strong. I too know too well what it is like to be engulfed by despair and fear. It gives me courage that even the greatest king ever had real human anxiety, fear and enemies. And he knew God to bring him to places of comfort, safety and fullness. I am sure you too have been facing great challenges. Please pray for me in this time, for anger and violence seem only to be escalating and faithful voices are being drowned out.

And pray for my friend and her family. I know God loves her and is holding her in his loving arms.

love always,

Mary

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Advent 1 - Mary Letters - Day 1

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

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

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

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

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

Sending you love,

Mary

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Moved With Compassion


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

Friday, November 27, 2015

Going Up to Jerusalem

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

Going Up to Jerusalem

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Bread of Life - Thanksgiving 2015

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

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

For God All Things Are Possible

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

 All Things Are Possible - a song for the weary

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

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


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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Little Children

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Good Measure, Pressed Down

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

A Good Measured Pressed Down 

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

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

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

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


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Christ the King


Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?" Pilate replied, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?" Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here." Pilate asked him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." John 18:33-37

Today is the last Sunday of the Church year. Advent begins and we prepare once again for the coming of the Christ child. We let go of the old year - the successes and failures, the highs and the lows, the things done and left undone - turning our hearts inside out to make new room for the Incarnate child, gentle and vulnerable, as we are.

The world around us is gearing up for sales and advertising. We are invited to seek the reign of  God as we serve others around us. God's kingdom is not in the flash and glitter but in the nitty gritty daily lives of care and concern, in the edges and borders of our communities. God's child arrives as a refugee from his home and escapes near death as a refugee into Egypt. We are invited today to make room for the Christ child who will change us and make us new again.

Today I ask God to help me prepare my heart. May we make room for love by opening our hearts to others. May we live as those who hear the cry of the beloved of God.





Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Saturday, November 21, 2015

All My Relations


Then Peter came and said to Jesus, "Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.
"For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, 'Pay what you owe.' Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?' And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart." Matthew 18:21-35 
 All My Relations

As the winter sky drops dark and low
I think about all my relations
the ones who shaped us and mistreated us
the ones who bent their time for our learning
the ones who put themselves first and
the ones who fed us sheltered us
and named us home.

The relatives who swoop and soar
remind us of the spring to come
the darkness that is brooding growth
the changes needed to make us strong
the silence in which the Creator whispers
calling us to widen our understanding.

The babies and the elders sing their songs
and we bustle around to care for them
they ask us to sit and visit and to play
we are impatient and always working
but the call of all our relations is always near
the ones who have walked on asking us
to linger with the vulnerable and weak
the sad, the lonely and the weary
in them we will see the face of Christ
and by them we will be made new again.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Change and Become Like Children

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
"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 fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes!
"If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into the hell of fire." Matthew 18:1-9 
I love being with children and young people. There is an honesty that seems to disappear as we age, we move to protect ourselves as we work to get ahead. Among children, there is a straight-forwardness  about feelings and situations, and an excitement about learning. Children are curious and ready to learn and explore. They are willing to admit they do not know and always ready to embrace and laugh.
Jesus is instructing the disciples about how to live. They wanted to know who was greatest and were told that those who were humble and genuine as children were prized by God. The Creator made us to live with curiosity, humility and compassion. We can be lead astray and lead others likewise, and are commanded to spend our time in humble pursuits, living honestly humbly and always welcoming.
Today I ask God to help me be child like in my daily living. May we be honest, genuine and humble so that God's love may shine through us. May we lead by following in the footsteps of Christ, who chose to live humbly and welcoming all to be transformed by love.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Casting A Hook


As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised." And they were greatly distressed. When they reached Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax came to Peter and said, "Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?" He said, "Yes, he does." And when he came home, Jesus spoke of it first, asking, "What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?" When Peter said, "From others," Jesus said to him, "Then the children are free. However, so that we do not give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me." Matthew 17:22-27 


Casting A Hook
 
Early morning light breaking
the water covered a blanket of fog
wading knee deep in the chilly water
casting and wondering why.

A seemingly ridiculous exercise
a  foolish errand from the Incarnate
the stillness of the morning gratitude
there was no one watching this task.

Wanting miracles this fisherman
stands in the water waiting and praying
that shame will not be his identity
hoping not to be ridiculed yet again.

The servants of the incarnate Lord
are sent to awkward and foolish places
unknown outcomes and feeling foolish
standing amidst this world of skeptics.

Faith asks us to stand in deep water
expecting coins from fish mouths
impossible miracles and healing
love where there was only hate.

God is sufficient and more
the world sees foolishness 
but we know abundance in scarcity
peace and love in the storms of war.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Moving Mountains

When they came to the crowd, a man came to Jesus, knelt before him, and said, "Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; he often falls into the fire and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him." Jesus answered, "You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him here to me." And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast it out?" He said to them, "Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you." Matthew 17:14-21 
We often panic when our local churches have limited funds and our denominations likewise panic and downsize when the money gets tight. We think that God is asking us to get smaller and give in to the way the world might see us. People can be set aside randomly when we panic and tighten. Real lives can get permanently damaged when we respond in fear. We act like God is not in our midst and there is nothing more to offer.
Jesus comes across a man who is in despair for his child. He went to the disciples but this healing seemed to hard for them. They panicked and sent them away. But the parent persisted and Jesus healed him and chastised his disciples. they panicked, it seemed to be too much for what they had, and they walked away. Jesus promised them and us today that if we persist, if we don't look at our lack but at God's abundance, we can move mountains. In this time of panic and downsizing, we might want to listen to Jesus. We might want to widen our mission instead of ending our reach and compassion, expecting that God is with us and moving mountains is still possible.
Today, I ask God to help me not to react to reports of our lack but rather increase my prayer and trust in God. May we live our days not constricted by our limited but expanded by the love of God which is limitless and abundant in this panicky generation.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Transfiguration

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!" When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Get up and do not be afraid." And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, "Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead." And the disciples asked him, "Why, then, do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" He replied, "Elijah is indeed coming and will restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but they did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man is about to suffer at their hands." Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them about John the Baptist. Matthew 17:1-13 

Transfiguration
A sacred vision atop the mountain
an holy moment in the midst of conflict
the promise of ,ore than what we see today
God in the midst of our very present, history and future.

The wearying days of terror and evil
fearful reaction, striking out in pain
to the world which shattered and unforgiving
come the promise of love's complete victory.

We have been broken open again 
our hearts are on the ground weeping
the sacred circle has been shattered by malice
we seem caught in a repeating nightmare.

Time to go tot he mountain again
to remember the promises and the hope
life renewed in the midst of terror
impossible love restored when all hope was lost.
 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Wars and Rumors of Wars

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." Mark 13:1-8

The French people were occupied during World War Two by German forces. When the liberation came, the triumphant pictures of the people who had lived in fear and occupation for so long, are etched on my mind these days. Native nations and their peoples in this country have also been subject to occupation and control in the past. These days, when we are surrounded by terrorism and the terrible threats, we can remember the worst of times and how God has seen us through.

A disciple is marveling at the works of mankind, and Jesus reminds him of the folly of humanity. Things which we cling to as permanent will pass away, but God's love and presence will endure. We can shutter and live in fear when events, like the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, bring us to the brink of anxiety and panic. Many people are talking again about war and we can be led astray. Today, we are reminded that God is with us, God incarnate, Jesus Christ, has not abandoned us at all but is drawing ever closer. We do not need to fear or give our hearts to politicians and leaders with simple solutions by rather deepen our trust in God who us always working towards justice and the care for those rejected, marginalized and under attack.

Today I ask God to deepen my faith with each step and hour of this day. May we not give in to fear in these times but rather live lives that demonstrate the love of God. May we be moved to compassion and away from fear knowing that God is in the midst of us, even when the days are dark and troubling.

Collect


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Facing Great Suffering

From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."
Then Jesus told his disciples, "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 will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
"For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." Matthew 16:21-28 

 Facing Great Suffering

The attack on  the innocents
working people celebrating weeks end
bring the world to her knees again
in great suffering and terrible loss.

The city of light and beauty
where  art, expression and freedom
are celebrated in every space
has been broken again by rage and anger.

While the world trembles on waking this morning
fearing for the worst and wanting to protect
God walks into the streets of Paris
taking up residence with the quaking people.

The incarnate God turned his face to Jerusalem
and we must turn and face all that we fear
God stand in the breech with us this day
asking us to be on our knees and ever faithful.

Love will indeed triumph in these bloodied streets
creation groans today with such deep abiding wounds
the Creator touches our broken hearts and lives
with presence, silent, brooding and promising ever.

 
 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Signs

The Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test Jesus they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, "When it is evening, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.' And in the morning, 'It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah." Then he left them and went away.
When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, "Watch out, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." They said to one another, "It is because we have brought no bread." And becoming aware of it, Jesus said, "You of little faith, why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How could you fail to perceive that I was not speaking about bread? Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!" Then they understood that he had not told them to beware of the yeast of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Matthew 16:1-12 
As the seasons change and winter bends in towards us, we look at the sky and wonder what kind of winter it will be. The early darkness is always foreboding at first, then we get comfortable with it and bundle up and head inside. We have learned what to do as the  seasons turn but often are helpless when the seasons of our lives changes. We want magic signs to guide us on our way, instead of trusting God is still walking with us. We are never alone and yet when things change we panic still.
The religious leaders of the day wanted everything spelled out and they wanted complete control. Control is the opposite of faith. The disciples thought they were in trouble because they failed to pack food. Jesus, their friend and teacher was warning them about trying to be in control and have everything ordered. He invited them, as he invites us, to walk each step with a faith that trusts in an abundant and loving God, one who walks with us and before us, even on our darkest days. We are never alone.
Today I ask God to give me the strength to take one step at a time, one day at a time as the seasons of my life change. May we each walk in faith, letting go of the need for control and giving God the glory for each blessing of the day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Compassion for the Crowd

After Jesus had left that place, he passed along the Sea of Galilee, and he went up the mountain, where he sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the mute, and many others. They put them at his feet, and he cured them, so that the crowd was amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.
Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, "I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way." The disciples said to him, "Where are we to get enough bread in the desert to feed so great a crowd?" Jesus asked them, "How many loaves have you?" They said, "Seven, and a few small fish." Then ordering the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish; and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all of them ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. Those who had eaten were four thousand men, besides women and children. After sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan. Matthew 15:29-39 

Compassion for the Crowd

The incarnate Christ is not about
the color and design of seasonal cups
nor correct language, music and liturgy
nor the displays or lack of them in public.

The presence of God's child is healing
the maimed whole, the blind seeing
the lame walking, the mute speaking
and the hungry people around us fed.

Making Christ visible this Christmas
will make us give away our foppery
seeking out the aching, broken people
and getting medical attention for those bleeding.

If we would be truly followers of Christ
we would forget the symbols and seek the people
the ones beloved of him who walked among them
the bling, lame, broken, addicted and outcasts.

Come celebrate the incarnation by making
real love and compassion flow from every corner
every street, every house and every village
until our compassion made every one see.

God is in the midst of us this season
bringing hope, healing and living promises
sparkling, glittering brighter than bobles
ready to make room for those hidden away.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Dogs and Crumbs

Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly. Matthew 15:21-28 
Our dog Petey loves to cram herself under the kitchen table at meals. There's so little room that we have to shoo her out to all be able to sit down. Still, she hovers, always hopeful, always ready to help us with the meal. Even if she has been fed seconds before, she hopes to find some rare tasty morsel that we have abandoned. She is relentless, and never gives up.
A woman comes to Jesus on behalf of her daughter. She is a foreigner, an outsider to the faith and an indigenous woman in a land taken over by invaders. She does not want to solve the social or political problems, she simply wants her daughter whole and will not be denied. Her love is fierce and shameless. She has to persuade Jesus, the teacher, to provide the healing. Jesus' rejection turns into admiration and love. Her faith not only brought healing to her daughter but insight to the disciples and Jesus himself. The power of love, the truest gift from God, will never fail, never give up.
Today I ask God to help me be persistent and relentlessness in my faith. May love be our breastplate and our armor today, so that people may know we are equipped by God to bring healing to a broken world.

Monday, November 9, 2015

What Defiles

Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, "Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands before they eat." He answered them, "And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.' But you say that whoever tells father or mother, 'Whatever support you might have had from me is given to God,' then that person need not honor the father. So, for the sake of your tradition, you make void the word of God. You hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied rightly about you when he said:
'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.'"
Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, "Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles." Then the disciples approached and said to him, "Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?" He answered, "Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit." But Peter said to him, "Explain this parable to us." Then he said, "Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile." Matthew 15:1-20 
What Defiles
The autumn days of turning
inward, drying and closing
we retreat from the outside world
of scrutiny, aggression and desire.

We think we are able to shelter 
our broken hearts and shaking anger 
if we but put on correct apperances
and so the proper dance.

Inside the fortress of our making
quakes the hurt, and anger ready to strike
ready to devour the innocent and guilty
we justify our cruelty with our faith.

We let children starve on the street
and demean their mothers as careless
judging the least as if far from God
we defile ourselves in our proud pity.

And God still walks these autumn streets
shivering with the cold and human cruelty
God still stands will the meek and humble
letting them into the warmth and comfort.