Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Good Earth

Again Jesus began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; in order that

‘they may indeed look, but not perceive,
and may indeed listen, but not understand;
so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.'”

And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. These are the ones on the path where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy. But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing. And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” Mark 4:1-20 
This time of year, as February comes to a close and the days are getting longer, I begin to seek out seed catalogs and make plans for planting. I think back to the things that grew well and those which did not thrive, as well as looking at the sun and shade in our back yard and researching what might do well that hasn't been tried. Then, it also takes time to make sure the soil is in good shape with the nutrients necessary for that specific plant. It all requires time and testing, failing and succeeding, and seeking advice from those wiser than myself.

Today we hear Jesus tell and also explain the parable of the good soil. Many of us, in our walk in faith, want things to be simple and easy. Folks often give up when the challenges overwhelm them. They might think God has abandoned them, or that they placed their faith wrongly. In actuality, faith takes time to grow, good soil, enough water and light, as well as the wisdom taught by others. We often want a quick solution, something we can google right now. We are invited in this season of Lent to lean in and breathe, into the time and testing, into the failing and succeeding, into the advice and knowledge seeking, for God is with us in this walk.

Today, I ask God to help me lean in and breathe for God is with me in the process. May we all lean in so we can be the good soil, the good earth, the people and places where faith can grow and God's glory can shine through us.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A House Divided

Then Jesus went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3:19b-35 

A House Divided

The children can tell when we fail them
when our spats and differences create
not life but trembling small hearts
confusion rather than comfort and safety.
We are here to be uniquely together
a family of God who all celebrate
the love we have been given
and the gifts we are to one another.
Yet we would let our young be elders
watch them take the lead as we cannot
squabbling over what are our rights
when life is more important than them all.

Let us now become the mothers and fathers
the sisters and brothers, children all
of a loving and active compassionate Creator
who gave us all the gifts needed to stand.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Removing the Roof

When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—“I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” Mark 2:1-12

Early tomorrow morning, we head down to Yellowstone National Park for several days at the snow lodge. We will be out of radio range for that time. It has been snowing a good deal here in Montana and the temperatures have been very cold. We expect to have more snow while we're there. Getting snow off of the roof is essential as it keeps them from collapsing  in with the weight. The life of faith demands that we sometimes break through the roof, sometimes we remove the roof, and sometimes we remove snow and ice to keep from collapsing. We all need to find our ways to God's healing, finding our way to let God's glory shine in.

Jesus comes home and is mobbed by the need. He also finds himself surrounded by people of great faith and love, those willing to find a way, despite barriers of all sorts. The folks had never seen anything like it, as they were used to living by rules, rather than by faith, by law rather than by love. How different the world would look today, if did not let fear and barriers bind us. God invites us to not be fearful and defensive but rather act always for love.

Today, I ask God to help me see barriers as invitations, fears as welcome to prayer. May we live breaking through and removing the barriers that keep us from loving and showing God's glory.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Begin to Serve

As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter. Mark 1:29-45

Begin to Serve

My story begins with serving
in truth it does not end there
each star signing in night sky
tells the tale of all my relations.

We are gestated in a round place
live and die on a circular orb
we are born into love's response
gratitude gives us new voice.

These deep winter days heal us
from the burning sun of summer
from the sore muscles of harvest
from the anxious autumn hunts.

We are dependent on one another
humble with respect for the elders
fired up to be the Creator's hands
on this earth where we are bound.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Time Has Come

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee. Mark 1:14-28

In every old movie or television show where a woman is pregnant, she usually waltzes in to where her husband is and says with a smile, "honey, it's time." Real life doesn't work like that. There is often pain and confusion, and we can surely misread signs. The work of discernment is complicated and often confusing. We ask ourselves, "is this the time for a change, or am I doing the right thing?" Clergy are particularly conflict avoid-ant.  We don't' want to hurt anyone, but we feel in our hearts that God is calling us to do a new thing, to challenge the old ways and to unintentionally cause pain in those we love. And yet, we must say, "the time has come!" In these days when innocents are dying, it is really time to say, "it's time!"

Jesus has been finding his footing in his ministry. John has been arrested and it is his time to use the gifts he has been given. He first gathers some friends to help him and then, Jesus, still very human, goes to worship with his friends. It is the unstable person who sees most clearly who Jesus is, and shouts it out. The evil spirits say to Jesus, "it's time!" His time of healing is made real in this very conflicted and uncomfortable situation. God invites us today to discern in the midst of our great discomfort and to expect the Creator to show us who we truly are to be.

Today, I ask God to help me face the uncomfortable situations and see God's hand in the darkest places. May we all hear the invitation to use the gifts we have been given to help heal a very broken world.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Crying In the Wilderness

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.'”

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. Mark 1:1-13

Crying In the Wilderness

There are many voices crying in the wilderness
then and now, so much like modern John Baptizers
they call us to repent and clear up the highway
so the embodied love of God can come among us.

We turn a blind eye to so much suffering
ignoring it, we encourage it and are all tainted
by greed and selfish folks with very deep pockets
who own so many wealthy unknowing slaves.

We must follow the children to the wilderness
they are crying and our task is to bring comfort
being baptized anew for righteousness, justice
so our world, which ache for love, might know it.

We must carry the water and build a new font
find the strength to speak up and to act
encourage speaking out in place of putting up
singing loud songs as we go to the waters.

It is time to be strong enough to face it
our sin and collusion with gnawing greed
we are part and parcel of the problem
we must be renewed so we can help solve.

The embodied love of the Divine is weeping
our selfishness has torn at God's heart
we cannot pray for comfort if we won't provide it
love will not come our way without repentance now.


Sunday, February 18, 2018

Beloved and Tempted

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” Mark 1:9-15

My mother's voices rings in my ears, "you know you are getting close to God when the devil works overtime!" And, it has held true in my life, as I am always finding myself in a good place, only to have my body or my spirit broken by something or someone. We can live a life of faith, yet we must expect both the mountain top experiences and the deep dark valleys. We can one day be on top of the world, in love with everything, and the next day, be starving for any support or any strength.  

Jesus is baptized and the crowd hears and sees the presence of the living God. God speaks of great love and pleasure in Jesus, and in baptism they are words for us all. Right afterwards, as Jesus seeks to strengthen his faith and spirit for what lies ahead, he is challenged, body, mind and soul. He knows he is loved and yet his journey includes all of the challenges, pitfalls and pains that break our spirits. How amazing is it that God chose to be in the flesh, just like us?  And as long as God is with us, we will often be overwhelmed and saddened by our broken humanity.

Today, I ask God to help me breath when the pressure and pain are too much, knowing that even in the darkest of places, I am not alone. May we all recognize God in the midst of our brokenness, grief and sorrow. May we understand we will be tempted and we will always be surrounded by great love.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

That They All May Be One

Jesus prayed, “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
“Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:20-26

That They All May Be One

The heart of the Divine, full of love
aches that we might share one heart
desires only our love for one another
seeks only compassion and kindness.

We would all be winners so others lose
we would stoke our anger and violence
we ache to crush those who oppose us
we desire to be separate and superior.

Our blood types may be different
yet our blood is all the same by design
we think it a right to stand on our own
yet we stand only on the backs of others.

There are no crowns so precious
like the crown of thorns worn for us
like the sacrificial love that suffered
so that we might live and thrive.

Honoring those who came before
means seeking out and repairing
all the breaches and divisions
refuting all our past abuse and crimes.

It is the season for seeking out the other
for seeing the face of God in strangers
for feeding the smiling and growling alike
for being one for it is the Creator's desire.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Protect Them

Jesus prayed, “I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.” John 17:9-19 

I have a mother's heart. For twenty seven months it shared everything with my children and the shared my life blood, the food I ate and every tear I shed.  They are a part of me and my whole being changed forever with their lives. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of them, pray for them, aching for their safety and their happiness. Every breath I take recalls them to me. I can still feel their presence with me, their newborn breath on my skin, their laughter and their tears. My children's lives have been threatened and they have been in danger. I am grateful everyday for their safety. When the news of 911 broke, although I was in a church meeting and we lived far from all of the destruction, I had to get in my car and drive home, to make sure they were all okay.  This mother's heart is breaking for the innocent student and teachers who died in their school. It is unbearable.

Jesus, in John's gospel is overheard praying for his disciples. We glimpse, in this moment, the heart of a parent, a mother, a father, begging for the care and protection of the children. His love for them is complete and familial. His love for us is the same as well. God desires our safety and our thriving and invites us to live for the safety and thriving of others. We are invited to have the heart of parents, who would do anything for those in our care. May we, in these days of destructive self-interest, put down our weapons, our words and our politics, and act for the love of the innocent around us.

Today, I ask God to move me beyond worry and prayer to action. May we remove the walls and barriers that divide us, and see that all of our community is in our care. We have been given to one another. May we love with a mother's and father's heart.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Know in Truth

After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.” John 17:1-8 

Know In Truth

What begins anew in Lent's season
is an honesty of heart and mind
understanding the destruction caused
in the name of the holy and the right.

Each generation and every individual born
carries the seed of compassion and healing
as well as the germ of selfishness and greed
here today we look at what we have wrought.

Tearing down those who would be tender
building up those who use weapons in anger
covering for the cruelty and deprivation
calling it genius, the right of the powerful.

Yet we are known in truth by our maker
we know in truth how broken we truly are
this season calls us to face the ugly truth
waiting for the easter moment of rebirth.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day

Jesus also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14 

Love requires humility, not superiority. Love is not an act of aggression but a daily act of hospitality and welcome, the opening of our hearts and souls to the love of God and sharing love with others. There is no conflict of having Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day collide on our calendar. They are two parts of the same faithfulness. We honor those we love, who have given us their love. We humbly honor the love we have been given by the loving Creator, by taking time to reflect and understand deeply the sacrifice made for us.

Jesus points out to his disciples how we are to live (and not live). Humility is a practice that seems lost in our present day, yet is so necessary for joyous and abundant life. Humility is neither self-abuse nor does it require us to be self effacing. Rather, we are invited to deep gratitude for the love we have been given, for the loving sacrifices made for us, for this life which is showered with love we really cannot deserve. God loved us before we understood love, and will love us through and beyond this life.

Today, I ask God to help me celebrate the amazing loves in my life by being humble and grateful every moment. May we all move into this season of Lent, by living every day as Valentine's Day. showering all the people in our lives with love that has no end.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

For This I Was Born

Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.” (This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)
Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”
After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him.” John 18:28-38 

For This I Was Born

We come to the end of epiphany's season
when all the world has been given light
we celebrate again all the truth we have
knowing more dark and dangerous days await.

We fatten and feast today hearing the durge
beckoning softly in the background here
on the edge of frivolity and deep despair
as we prepare to face humanity's truth.

We were born for this day and tomorrow
born to celebrate and bear love's pain
born to rise above rumors and abuse
made to be more than victims and slave.

Here is Fat Tuesday and there is the cross
always before us as we pretend and play
we were born to know the divine embrace
born to bear the burden of baptism's mark.

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Rooster Crowed

Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. The woman said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.
Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, “You are not also one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the rooster crowed. John 18:15-18, 25-27 

The Rooster Crowed

Don't deny it now because we were all present
you tried without success to deny  your part
you wanted to weaseled out of the life you love
ached to be anonymous, quiet and unknown.

We all wanted to be there and an essential part
we loved every moment of the exhilerating ride
now, in these deep, sad hours of this long night
you cannot turn away, you cannot deny who you are.

These are dangerous times, foreboding shadows
threats and talk of violence and destruction
you wanted in when it was fun and thrilling
there is no exit now when death rattles near.

Love doesn't quit on the harder journeys
nor does the Divine relent when pain surrounds
the eternal truths become the only steady beacon
they are found in the pain and the open wounds.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

But Only Jesus

Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth
could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you,
one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud
overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”
Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen,

until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.  Mark 9:2-9

We are all looking for mountain top experiences and moments of great clarity that solidify our faith. Mine come, most often, in the most unlikely places. When I was a new deacon, I flew to Florida to see my sister, Pegi. She had survived several cancer operations and treatments and was facing another surgery. I, who was trained to deal with the trauma in hospitals, was not ready to face my sister's end. She was forty two and vibrant, lovely and loved by the children she taught. I found her room, and as I went in, she sat up radiant in her bed between my parents, my pillars of faith. A moment of beautiful, shining, transfiguration moment, when at once I understood she was dying and she was surrounded by the loving arms of Jesus. This moment gave me strength for the storms and grief ahead.

Jesus takes his disciples up the mountain and they are overwhelmed by what they see and experience.  They are scared and excited, not knowing how to deal with this vision. Their learning with their teacher had not taught them about this moment. What was ahead for Jesus and for them was overwhelming, horrifying and wonderful too. Real human life in it's cruelty, politics, jealousy and pain were in front of them. They were able to take this moment with them, this vision, as they walked into the storms ahead. We are invited today, to understand that in our low places, in our messy homes, in our shame filled moments and in our dying, we are never alone. In all of our frightened frailty, there is but only Jesus.

Today I ask God to help me remember all the visions of God's presence and love in my life. May these moments make me stronger for the storms ahead. May we all be strengthened so we can care for those around us, who are mired in hopelessness and pain.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Truth Will Make You Free

Again Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will search for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” Then the Jews said, “Is he going to kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” He said to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he.” They said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Why do I speak to you at all? I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the one who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” They did not understand that he was speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me. And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.” As he was saying these things, many believed in him.
Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:21-32

There are days when the politics and games playing exhaust me. And when it happens within church structures, when power and privilege are more important than love and support, I feel broken and lose hope. I am reminded how secrets destroy families. Trying to hide truth, even to protect the power and the way we know, damages everyone. We have seen, over the past months, how when one brave woman has spoken the truth, the order can tumble, but one truth makes others brave. We often don't want to know, yet the truth is freedom. Everything else is bondage.

Jesus understand that the religious leaders do not want anyone to upset their structures, their control and their safety. They like to keep things hidden so others can be dependent. The silence and the shaming kept the power in place. Jesus made friends with outcasts, broken people, and those who were crushed by the leaders' selfish control. He came to bring truth, to bring love beyond measure and freedom for us all. God invites us today to embrace the humility it requires to tell the truth at all times, so that we all may be free.

Today, I ask God to help me be humble and truthful in all things. May we let ourselves embrace the truth, no matter how painful and disruptive it might be, knowing God is seeking freedom for each and everyone, knowing love with break forth when we open the gate of freedom with our truth.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Light of the World

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Then the Pharisees said to him, “You are testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid.” Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid because I know where I have come from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is valid; for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is valid. I testify on my own behalf, and the Father who sent me testifies on my behalf.” Then they said to him, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” He spoke these words while he was teaching in the treasury of the temple, but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come. John 8:12-20 

There was always the lighthouse. Although the light was working and rotating in the daytime, we didn't see it. Yet in storms and the dead of night it was there, making rounds, lighting up the whole peninsula and helping direct everyone. Visitors sometimes had trouble sleeping if the light flashed in a bedroom window, thinking it was someone lurking with a flashlight. For those who called the place home, it was the light of comfort and promise, lulling us to sleep in safety.

Jesus calls himself the light of the world. The Pharisees immediately jump on him for saying these things about himself. They couldn't understand because they were not at home with God. They bound themselves to the rules and watched for rule breakers, those lurking around making trouble. Yet for those who make their home with God, who live trusting there is light and promise to each day, we are assured and comforted because God is our home. We are invited to rest in God, in the face of the storms coming and the deep darkness of night, we are always at home.

Today, I ask God to help me settle into the light, to rest in the comfort and promise of Christ. For all who face storms and darkness, may we be comfort and reassurance to them, and help them find a home and rest.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Writing on the Ground

Then each of them went home, while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” John 7:53—8:11 

Writing On The Ground

We write our love in the wet sand
knowing the tide will cover it
we scratch our names in the bark
someday our children will see it.

We leave marks everywhere we go
what we condemn burns and hurts
we think we are not seen in private
yet it was written on the ground.

Etched in stone and permanent
our sorrows find us despite it all
we pretend to be perfect and strutt
in the night's loneliness we cry out.

We are no better nor worse than others
we are dust and to dust we are returning
when our names are forgotten and gone
the pain or joy we leave behind remembered.

The Divine writes on the ground
not to condemn us but to set us free
moving us toward humility, kindness
giving us a home in this broken world.


Monday, February 5, 2018

Rivers of Living Water

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.'” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
When they heard these words, some in the crowd said, “This is really the prophet.” Others said, “This is the Messiah.” But some asked, “Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he? Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?” So there was a division in the crowd because of him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.
Then the temple police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why did you not arrest him?” The police answered, “Never has anyone spoken like this!” Then the Pharisees replied, “Surely you have not been deceived too, have you? Has any one of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd, which does not know the law—they are accursed.” Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus before, and who was one of them, asked, “Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?” They replied, “Surely you are not also from Galilee, are you? Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee.” John 7:37-52 

Rivers of Living Waters

This thirst within each of us
throbs like a torn and aching muscle
bends us over in this human frailty
pushes us onward walking aimlessly.

We think if we win at every thing
if we take what is ours by might alone
then we will know the gentle fullness
and float glorified in our own perfection.

Living waters often begin as storms
treacherous and mighty bearing down
unexpected and overhwhelming
living water churns and draws us down.

What we think we need is never right
like modern Nicodemus we want easy
yet we must go deep into the raging waters
water logged and needy we will thrive.

God is the living, moving water we need
the Holy deep baptism of radical change
always found in the unlikely places
always drawing us downstream to new life.


Sunday, February 4, 2018

Spreading Circles

After Jesus and his disciples left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons. Mark 1:29-39

I think all of creation, all of life reflects the concentric circles we thrive best in. Our years pass in circles of time, our education begins very intimately and spreads ever wider, and love spreads in the same way.  Celestial navigators depend on the circular and elliptical circling of the stars and planets. We divide our time, our days and nights completely dependent on the movement of related and interdependent round orbs. Our lives of faith are similarly related and interdependent.

Our Gospel today begins with Jesus healing and love as very local, in the tight sphere of Peter's family house and then moves outward into the wider village. And as he prays and listens to the heart of God, his ministry spread out in an every widening circle. We are invited today to know we are called to ever widening circles of love and healing. As we stay close to the heart of God, we are pushed out to wider and wider circles, always close to the edge of our understanding and knowing. We are promised that we will not be alone on the edge of our known universe, but lead there by the Incarnate one, the embodiment of love and healing.

Today, I ask God to help me move beyond my comfort zone by staying close to the heart of God and being led further out at all times. May we never limit our understanding of a life of faith, by what we know this season or this year. Instead, my we be drawn ever outward to share the love we have been given.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Seeking Their Own Glory

About the middle of the festival Jesus went up into the temple and began to teach. The Jews were astonished at it, saying, “How does this man have such learning, when he has never been taught?” Then Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine but his who sent me. Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own. Those who speak on their own seek their own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is nothing false in him.
“Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why are you looking for an opportunity to kill me?” The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is trying to kill you?” Jesus answered them, “I performed one work, and all of you are astonished. Moses gave you circumcision (it is, of course, not from Moses, but from the patriarchs), and you circumcise a man on the sabbath. If a man receives circumcision on the sabbath in order that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because I healed a man’s whole body on the sabbath? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
Now some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, “Is not this the man whom they are trying to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, but they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Messiah? Yet we know where this man is from; but when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.” Then Jesus cried out as he was teaching in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I am from. I have not come on my own. But the one who sent me is true, and you do not know him. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.” Then they tried to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come. Yet many in the crowd believed in him and were saying, “When the Messiah comes, will he do more signs than this man has done?”
The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering such things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent temple police to arrest him. Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little while longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will search for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.” The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? What does he mean by saying, ‘You will search for me and you will not find me’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?” John 7:14-36

Their Own Glory

Though they cannot make the sun rise
or the earth to eclipse the moon
they did not set the planets in their courses
yet they believe they had a hand in it.

Too often they take to the pulpit
proclaiming just how righteous they are
when their families at home are suffering
and they do not know the children's names.

Though they fail on a regular basis
they expect their followers to bow
they cannot allow anyone to be smarter
as if they can really control God's gifts.

The holy ones are as broken as street beggars
they know how blessed they truly are
they rejoice in others' gifts and wonders
they give thanks to God for every breath.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Undercover Savior

After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He did not wish to go about in Judea because the Jews were looking for an opportunity to kill him. Now the Jewish festival of Booths was near. So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea so that your disciples also may see the works you are doing; for no one who wants to be widely known acts in secret. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” (For not even his brothers believed in him.) Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify against it that its works are evil. Go to the festival yourselves. I am not going to this festival, for my time has not yet fully come.” After saying this, he remained in Galilee.
But after his brothers had gone to the festival, then he also went, not publicly but as it were in secret. The Jews were looking for him at the festival and saying, “Where is he?” And there was considerable complaining about him among the crowds. While some were saying, “He is a good man,” others were saying, “No, he is deceiving the crowd.” Yet no one would speak openly about him for fear of the Jews. John 7:1-13

It can be hard to be a religious leader and have a normal life. When I was a parish priest, people were surprised to see me doing the grocery shopping or going to the doctor. Some folks didn't think we should frequent certain restaurants. To really get away or have a night out we had to go far away from the local community. And now, as a bishop, suspicion can be aroused if I go to church and just sit in the pew. It makes some people uncomfortable and especially some priests. I try to let people know that I am planning to attend their church and that I just want to worship as a "normal" person might.

Jesus was exhausted from the challenges and threats of the religious leaders. They wanted to kill him. His brothers were no kinder to him and baited him about going to the big religious festival. They wanted to see him show off and revel in his fame. They were brothers were teasing him, goading him into lashing out or showing off. Typical family behavior. Jesus wanted to be fed by the religious practice and few would let him. So he went undercover. God invites us to remember to care for those who lead us by giving them space and time to be fed and renewed. And God invites us leaders to take the time we need to be fed and renewed.

Today I ask God to help me know when I need renewal and feeding so that I might be strengthened for the ministry. May we all care for one another and ourselves so that we might, in turn, care for all who come our way seeking to be fed and healed.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Difficult Teaching

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.”
Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.” He was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him. John 6:60-71 

I spent a good deal of my time as a bishop in this church developing curriculum and teaching. There are some things I prepare and teach that folks do not like hearing. Some folks don't like to hear that our church is not a safe place for many people and that gender, race and privilege are our greatest stumbling blocks. I try to help folks do the hard work of self-examination and healing, yet many want an easy life, a simple church, and a quick fix. Those don't exist, although we desire them. To be a community in Christ, we must find ourselves humbled and open, willing the hard work to enrich and restore us.

Jesus has said some things that make many people run for the hills. Long before the "Spanish Inquisition"  that no one told believers about, there were trials and abuse to be faced in following Jesus and living a life of service and justice. It is as true in our time as then. The cup we drink is both life and death. Death to self and personal fame and gain. Yet to live in Christ is to live wholly alive and willing to be humble for the life of the world. God invites us to run if we must, but for those who are willing today, this cup is offered daily, for the healing and redemption of the world.

Today I ask God to help me drink and live fully as a willing follower of Christ. Let us humble ourselves, understanding that we are no more than our teacher and we are bound together because of his sacrifice.