Tuesday, June 25, 2013

June 30 Ordinary Time

Today’s Scriptures: Lectionary selections from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C
2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14
1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21
Psalm 77
Psalm 16
Galatians 5:1, 13-25
Luke 9:51-62
Today’s Reflection:
These days everything in life seems to come with conditions. People often ask their leaders to make a decision – something cut-and-dried, black-or-white – when what they really want is some shade of gray. We want the wiggle-room of indecisiveness. We like changing our mind when the circumstances change. In today’s passages, we learn that God does not give us the option: our response must be yes or no.

After Elijah fled to the desert to escape Jezebel’s threat, the Lord revealed his replacement prophet – Elisha. He found Elisha busy in the work of the fields, passed by and put his mantle over him. Elisha requested that he kiss his parents goodbye (translated: finish the work before him) and then he would follow. Elijah made it clear that was not what God wanted, so Elisha instead killed his oxen and cooked them using the wood of his plow to irrevocably cut his ties to his past.

In the same way, Jesus gives cryptic answers, yet ones that called for immediate action in direction to his followers. A response cutting someone off from burying his/her parent or saying goodbye to family seems harsh on the surface, but in reality, the response was, “I will follow you when it is convenient,” and Jesus was not asking them to follow him, “maybe.”

Elisha and Jesus’s followers were all in the middle of living their day-to-day lives when they received the Lord’s call. We are all in the middle of living our day-to-day lives. I have commitments booked months in advance on my calendar: “Oh just let me finish _________.” will always be a line I could use. Life will always be an obstacle in doing that which God calls us to do, so he does not allow us a “maybe” or “later” response. The only answers he takes are “yes” or “no.”

Fortunately for us, when God calls us, he only has good things in store for us. While we may have to give up a certain good thing (our present circumstance) on faith for a better good thing (found in God’s call), we do know that it will be good. Our first task, though, is to say, “yes!”
Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 2005 Consultation on Common Texts. www.commontexts.org

Saturday, June 22, 2013

June 23 Ordinary Time

Today’s Scriptures: Lectionary selections from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C
1 Kings 19:1-15
Isaiah 65:1-9
Psalm 43
Galatians 3:23-29
Luke 8:26-39
Today’s Reflection:
In a lifetime of working with others I have seen that some characteristics of human nature never change: we have a short attention span and we anticipate everything into a catastrophe. The prophets in Kings, Isaiah, and the people in Luke all encounter threatening situations and react as people do flee and/or whine. Despite the failings of human nature, God remains steady and his presence through the encounters shows us more about his care for us.

Elijah had just completed his miracle of the wet altar when he found out that Jezebel declared war on him for defeating her priests and “killing them with the sword.” The passage showed the power of a woman scorned and the power of an oath. By declaring Elijah’s fate with the oath, she was bound to carry it out. Elijah laced up his sandals and headed for foreign lands.

Just like Elijah, the prophet in Isaiah declared that the people do not want his message. He despaired at the situation in the same way Elijah did when the Lord’s messenger and the Lord came by. Elijah went from a manifest victory of the Lord’s power to hopeless despair within days. They catastrophized the situation by being certain the worst that could happen would happen. God responded to both, “Do your job and everything will be fine.”

Consistently when Jesus came across a demon, the being from the spirit world recognized Jesus identity, power, and consequences for the contact. In the case of Legion, after the thousands of spirits fled into a heard of swine and free the man, the people in the area partially got it – they recognized Jesus’s power, but they did not see the opportunity in it. Instead they responded in fear and asked Jesus to leave. The spirits knew wholly who Jesus was while the people only understood partially and the responses showed the level of understanding. Jesus’s response to the man who desired to go with him was much like that of God to the prophets, “Stay here, spread the word, and all will be fine.”

Regardless of the human nature response in each of the situation, the God presence in each passage remained the same: “Here is my way. Stay on the course I have given you and all will be fine.” That is the comfort we take in our relationship with the Lord. It does not matter how frantic we become, God’s stability and calm provides a way through the panic. Yes, the British were on to something: Keep calm and carry on – and all will be fine.
Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 2005 Consultation on Common Texts. www.commontexts.org

Monday, June 17, 2013

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time - June 16, 2013 - Year C - Roman Catholic Lectionary

Today's readings:
  • First Reading:  2 Sam 12:7-10, 13
  • Psalm:  Ps 32:1-2, 5, 7, 11
  • Second Reading:  Gal 2:16, 19-21
  • Gospel Reading:  Luke 7:36-8:3

Forgiveness.  Forgiveness

Seems to be a pretty hot topic these days.

As a world, we need to ask for forgiveness for so many things.  But do we?  The gospel that we read today gives us a rather interesting answer to all that we need to be forgiven for and for all those whom we need to forgive.  How do you make amends when you know you have hurt someone deeply or when you become aware that your patterns of life cause either harm or distress to others?  That can be a very tough question.  Actually, it isn't easily answered.  Today's gospel captures a scene in which a woman who had been known as a sinner, and who had experienced forgiveness in other areas of her life, pours out her thankfulness and joy towards Jesus in demonstrations of love that we would find odd in today's culture and world. 

"Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears.  Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.  When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner."

As this entire scene unfolds in Luke's Gospel, Simon, the Pharisee, and the others are so confused that Jesus is permitting this woman to wash his feet with her tears and ointment.  He turns to Simon and the woman and says, "Do you see this woman?  When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered.  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment.  So I tell you, her many sins have been fogiven because she has shown great love."

Her sins have been forgiven because she has shown great love.  The others are sitting around, staring, in a big fog!  Jesus then says to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace." 

Stunned.  Faith saves?  Love saves?  Showing great love to others - saves?  There is so much about this story and scenario that we do not know.  The rest of the woman's story is lost to us.  We don't know her name, where she came from, her age, or any other intimate details of her life.  We do not even know why kind or "type" of sins that she committed.  Was she getting ready to be stoned in her village for her sins?  What I find to be rather interesting - is that in many, many stories in sacred scripture, it is women who are often cast in these "sinning" roles with Jesus.  We have only one small slice of her life, a moment in which she goes into the house of Simon, to welcome people to partake in the scraps of a banquet.  She finds other people reclining at table, reaching into the center to partake of the food, with their feet extending out into the room.  She finds Jesus in the room, and in a goes over to him - she then mingles her tears with perfume and anoints his feet.  She uses her hair to wipe Jesus' feet. 

Who do we need to show great love to in our lives?  Who in our lives needs their feet anointed with perfume, oil and to be washed?  The entire gospel today reminds me of the washing of the feet that we celebrate on Holy Thursday. 

Maybe during these summer months, we can take a look at who we need to serve better.  Maybe we need to be awakened to the needs of immigrants and migrant workers, the poor, those who have no clothing or housing, those who lack access to education, or those who lack access to clean water. 

Maybe we need to wash the feet of those who are on death row, or those who are unjustly accused of crimes that they didn't committ.  Heck, let's wash the feet of those who did committ crimes.  They are in need of healing and reconciliation too. 

Maybe we need to serve those who can't help themselves - those who are in hospices, end-of-life-care, nursing homes, and those lives who can't defend themselves - for whatever reason. 

Maybe we need to better take care of our planet, and all those around the world who inhabit her. 

This week, and through out the summer months, let us ask for the grace and wisdom to suspend judgment and to perceive the good work and grace that God is doing in others. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Ordinary Time June 16

Today’s Scriptures: Lectionary selections from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C
1 Kings 21:1-21
2 Samuel 11:26-12-10, 13-15
Psalm 5
Psalm 32
Galatian 2:15-21
Luke 7:36-8:3
Today’s Reflection:
The passages from the Old Testament and the Gospel could have been written from the headlines with leaders from around the world replacing the names of the Biblical characters. The corruption that comes with power plays itself out in our news, literature, and scripture. Regardless of one’s view of the Bible as a literal history or a collection of stories for educational purposes, one fact that remains true is that human nature does not change. Likewise, fortunately, God’s love for us does not change either.

The Kings and Samuel passages present two gross abuses of power by the king over Israel. Despite the king’s responsibility to protect the powerless and avenge injustice, both leaders let themselves be driven by their lust to do despicable acts. The justice that should have come at the hand of the king ended up coming at the hand of God.

Paul, in Galatians, drives home the idea that we are forgiven through the grace of God, rather than through the law. We are incapable of living up to the law, so we are subject to God’s justice, but through grace, we still have access to God through Christ.

During the dinner with the Pharisee, Jesus teaches how access to grace comes through demonstrating love. It is only through love that we gain grace through Christ. We are incapable otherwise of meriting anything from Christ.

Our natures do not change. Neither does the nature of God. Justice will happen: that is the nature of God. It is necessary then, that we learn to love in the way God loves us.
Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 2005 Consultation on Common Texts. www.commontexts.org

Sunday, June 9, 2013

June 9 Ordinary Time

Today’s Scriptures: Lectionary selections from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C
1 Kings 17:8-24
Psalm 146
Psalm 30
Galatians 1:11-24
Luke 7:11-17
Today’s Reflection:
Each spring my garden begins (mostly) from scratch (depending on how cold the previous turned out to be). From time to time one of the plants survives the winter and grows out from the root. Even when that happens, I transplant the survivor to a new location because I rotate the garden plants each year – good stewardship of the land. Today’s scriptures are about transformation- from the replenishing bit of meal and resurrected sons to the turnaround of Paul’s heart from one zealous for the old ways to someone equally zealous for the Way.

Despite an ongoing drought with no new grain the jar of meal and jug of oil never ran out in the story from 1 Kings. The widow had enough faith to follow Elijah’s command. She was prepared to make her last meal and then die with her son. Her gamble paid off: she not only had enough food for herself and her son, but also for Elijah. Her faith carried them through, but the depth of the faith was just enough for that. When her son became ill and died, she doubted the God who had saved them just to let them die. It was only after Elijah’s appeals to the Lord resurrected her son that she proclaimed, “Now I know that you are a man of God….”

The Gospel passage includes a similar passage. A widow’s son has died. Jesus has compassion and resurrects the son.  The act created awe (fear) among the members of the funeral party. Each person present recognized the power of Jesus shared the story about him throughout the region. Their ideas about the presence of God in their world were changed and they believed again that God was with them.

The most dramatic transformation in this week’s scriptures is that of Paul. In yet another passage he recalls his history of persecuting the followers of Christ because he so believed in the law and traditions of his people. He reveals a prophetic calling – “…God, who had set me apart before I was born….” It was only when he encountered Jesus that he realized the calling was for something different. That same zeal turned from persecuting believers to converting unbelievers – in particular non-Jews as he traveled around the Roman empire.

We do not live in a world with prophets and messiahs resurrecting children out of compassion for their parents. For whatever reason, God has not continued those events into our time. What has continued, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, is the spiritual transformation as experienced by Paul. Each one of us has the opportunity to have our hearts and minds transformed to do the ministry for which we have been called. Like Paul, we were all set apart before birth to accomplish the work of God in our time.

Whether we realize it or not, we are daily transformed. It is what we do with that transformation that speaks to our faith.
Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 2005 Consultation on Common Texts. www.commontexts.org

Sunday, June 2, 2013

June 2 Ordinary Time

Today’s Scriptures: Lectionary selections from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C
1 Kings 18:20-39
Psalm 96
1 Kings 8:22-23, 41-43
Galatians 1:11-24
Luke 7:1-10
Today’s Reflection:
I watch too many reality cooking shows. As I began reading the story of Elijah and his battle with the Baal priests, I couldn’t help but title it: Iron Priest – Israel! The secret ingredient: FIRE! with the announcer greeting the crowd, “Welcome to altar stadium.” Anyone who has ever tried to build a fire with wet wood knows what a disaster it can be. It generally ends with lots of smoke, and frustration. That may be, for me, why the story of Elijah’s battle with the Baal priests remains so fascinating: if God can set wet wood on fire, then he can do anything! Today’s passages help point us in the direction that guides the power of God with humankind.

The themes that resonate from the 1 Kings passages as well as the other passages for me are the proximity of God and who can call on the Lord.

Elijah mocks the priests when Baal does not respond to their loud cries. He wonders if the god has “turned-off (meditation/sleep),” or “wandered away.” The priests’ increasingly frantic (and increasingly bloody) cries continue to go unanswered; their ordinary offering remains untouched. Elijah ups the challenge by making his offering extraordinary through the soaking of the wood, and his request is immediately answered; everything present, including the altar is gone.

Elijah’s mocking of the priests with the suggestion that their god has wandered away is turned on its head in the Luke passage. The faithful centurion realized that Jesus did not have to be “present” in the physical, tangible sense to accomplish his wishes. All he had to do was declare it done and it was. The element in both stories is faith: no matter who you are, a powerful prophet called by the Lord or a foreign military leader, true faith allows the Lord to work his will in the circumstances of our lives.

When we accept the “Godness” of God faith can become a lifestyle. This does not mean we have to understand the “Godness” of God for that exceeds human understanding; we are called to believe it exists and act accordingly. Each passage confirms that anyone who has this belief, Israelite or “foreigner,” can call on the name of the Lord.

Although I do like my reality cooking shows, I tend to be analytical and struggle with a demand to understand God’s being rather than accept that it is. Today’s passages give a perspective to accepting the nature of God, and at least for this week, help me live in the way of faith.
Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 2005 Consultation on Common Texts. www.commontexts.org