Tuesday, November 19, 2013

November 24 - Ordinary Time

Today’s Scriptures: Lectionary selections from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C
Jeremiah 23:1-6
Luke 1:68-79
Psalm 46
Colossians 1:11-20
Luke 23:33-43
Today’s Reflection:
Today marks the final Sunday of another liturgical year. We have experienced the anticipation of Advent, the joy of Epiphany, the torment of Lent and Holy Week, the ecstasy of Easter, the empowerment of Pentecost, and heard a call to action and justice through Ordinary Time. Today we reflect on the function of the Christ summarized in Old and New Testament writings.

Human leadership ultimately fails the people. As well intentioned as they may be (or as self-serving as they may be), human leaders are human and have all the flaws that come with the limitations of the body. In Jeremiah, God, specifically addresses those leaders who misled through through their own evil intentions.  The prophet specifically refers to these who misled the people shepherds add scorn to their ineffectiveness. Shepherds played a valuable role in society as they protected the flock that provided food and other products for the community. The shepherd’s job was to keep the flock together and safe from predators. Effective shepherd held much respect; ineffective shepherds held no respect. Using the term shepherd placed these false leaders into a position of scorn.

Jeremiah does not spend the entire passage bashing those who have harmed the people, he goes on to tell of the one coming to reunite the people with God like none other has. The passage is cited upon the birth of John as his father recognizes he is the one paving the way for the prophesied leader.

In Colossians we get one of the clearest pictures of the identity of Christ. He is purely and completely God - the creator and beneficiary of all creation. For us, though, he became the physical manifestation of God so that we, with our limited ability to grasp the full nature of God could have something we could comprehend. In  one passage we get the eternal history, purpose, and eternal future of  God with us.

Very often, just when I think I have begun to fully grasp the nature and purpose of God in my life, something happens to remind me that God continues to be bigger than my mind can fathom. Rather than being an unbearable frustration, knowing there is more to find keeps me seeking.
Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 2005 Consultation on Common Texts. www.commontexts.org

Saturday, November 16, 2013

November 17 - Ordinary Time

Today’s Scriptures: Lectionary selections from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C
Isaiah 65:17-25
Isaiah 12:1-6
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Luke 21:5-19
Today’s Reflection:
One thing I like about working in education is that every school year comes with a fresh beginning. The previous year is boxed away (literally - grade and attendance documents are stored away until it is legal to destroy them) and teachers have new students and students have new teachers. Whatever happened the year before has been forgotten and we start the new year with new hope and energy. Unfortunately, the rest of our lives do not operate quite the same way, so we do have some hope when we see the hope a new beginning from God.

The Isaiah passages consider God’s role in our lives and the world he wanted. The verses from Chapter 12 celebrated God’s forgiving power in that even when we are doing wrong, God loves us enough to put aside his wrath and be our salvation. Chapter 65 describes the right and orderly world, as God intended, that he will bring about for the well-being of the faithful. God’s care for us is intentional when we do as he expects.

The passage in 2 Thessalonians reminds us that our work as Christians does not stop when we believe - that is where it begins. We all have a purpose and a job to do. Being idle or a busybody were people taking advantage of the generosity of the early church. The lived off the church without contributing anything to their own well-being. Others in the church worked to support themselves and then gave to the church. Paul reminded them, that regardless of his stature in the early church, he and his companions worked to pay their way, not expecting gifts from others.

Jesus shares a world of chaos and calamity in the Luke passage. Wars, famine, earthquakes, plagues will happen on the earth but we should not be tricked into believing that any of those things mark his return to the earth. The people acting in faith will always find themselves at risk by powers, religious groups, and even their own families, yet he assures them that not even a hair on their head will perish. This was not a physical promise Christ made, but a spiritual one. Many were martyred - but their souls have eternity through enduring in the faith.

New beginnings. Fresh starts. Our Christian faith, built on grace, accepts that none of us is perfect: we are human. Fortunately, we worship God who values us enough to let us be works-in-progress during our physical lives with the promise of becoming the perfect creation of his vision in the New Jerusalem.
Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 2005 Consultation on Common Texts. www.commontexts.org

Saturday, November 9, 2013

November 10 - Ordinary Time

Today’s Scriptures: Lectionary selections from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C
Job 19:23-27
Psalm 17
2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17
Luke 20:27-38
Today’s Reflection:
Whether I am feeling it or not, I make an effort to present a confident face in my work and public roles. For those positions where I am in a position of leadership it reassures those following me and bolsters their own confidence. Inside I may be feeling everything but confidence, but my posture, words, and actions mask it as much as possible. Each of today’s passages offer words from some of the greatest exemplars of faith in the Bible.

Job’s passionate declaration that no matter what happens, no matter what discouragement comes his way, he knows God, his redeemer, will be at his side in the judgment. Despite the lowness of his circumstance, he is confident that his right-ness with God will end in justice being done. He is so confident, his declaration opens with the wish that the words are recorded in a book and on a rock so they will last forever.

Likewise, Paul, in his assurances to the church at Thessalonica, knows that circumstances do not always merit confidence when we see them from our earthly perspective. The world was changing around them making many of them wonder if they were in the right. Paul reminded them that Christ had warned of such circumstances and that regardless of what happened in the world, his word was constant. Being connected to the eternal truth, as Job knew, ensures justice in the end despite the challenges that intervene.

The religious leaders in Jesus’s time never did learn the lesson about arguing the Word with the Word.  This time the Sadducees, leaders who did not believe in a resurrection (the Pharisees did) thought they found a loophole in the law that would cause chaos in a resurrection world. Their fault, like ours often is, came from seeing the situation from a human, earthly, finite viewpoint. The earthly order is not the heavenly order. In the heavenly, infinite, experience where there is no beginning or ending, there is no need for the institutions we employ. In heaven, we may or may not see grandpa. Even if we do, that powerful emotional connection we have with family on earth pales to nothingness compared to the connection we will have with God when we are in his presence.

Like Job and Paul, we also possess the justification for confidence. Job, Paul, and Jesus gave us the key to that confidence: focus on the eternal not the temporal. When we get drawn into human understanding, everything has limits. With God, no such boundaries exist and our assurances are well placed. It is hard to do those things that we have never seen, but we have directions - we just have to get past ourselves to follow them.
Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 2005 Consultation on Common Texts. www.commontexts.org

Sunday, November 3, 2013

November 3 - Ordinary Time

Today’s Scriptures: Lectionary selections from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C
Isaiah 1:10-18
Psalm 32
2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12
Luke 19:1-10
Today’s Reflection:
My biggest frustrations come when I have followed all the rules and directions and yet the results do not come out as anticipated. Usually, it’s a recipe that proves my frustration and emotional undoing. The cake didn’t rise or fell apart in crumbs. Cooking, baking in particular, follows set scientific rules, so any slight deviation leads to chaos. Many people seek to have a similar set of rules for religion but today’s scriptures remind us that our attitude has much more to do with meaningful faith than any set of rules.

The people Isaiah spoke to followed the rules on every occasion. When it came to ritual they had it down. They never missed a chance to come for worship. God replied to them, “STOP IT. I am weary of your worship.” God’s frustration came because the attitude of the people did not honor him. They followed the law yet showed no care for people in the world around them.  God’s direction proves challenging to us even today: stop worshiping and start doing good - take care of the needy and I’ll take care of you.

The story of Zacchaeus in Luke reinforces the idea that attitude matters more than fidelity to a worship plan. Zacchaeus was not liked or respected by the community. As an agent of the Romans, his job put him in conflict with the people, but his encounter with with Christ turned his attitude toward one of justice for all.

The prophets and Christ brought us a unified message: take care of the needy. Rules are easy to follow. A highly structured worship service is easy to attend. Ceasing to do evil; learning to do good; seeking justice; rescuing the oppressed; defending the orphan; pleading for the widow are hard. Worship, though, is worthless unless the work we do outside the church house represent God. God’s saints build his kingdom and almost none of that work is done inside a sanctuary.
Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 2005 Consultation on Common Texts. www.commontexts.org

Friday, November 1, 2013

Dia de los Muertos - All Saints Day

Today’s Scriptures: Lectionary selections from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C
Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18
Ephesians 1:11-23
Luke 6:20-31
Today’s Reflection:
Anyone who has lost a loved one knows the pain, real pain, grief brings. Today, a day we set aside to remember those who have , passed away could easily rival Good Friday as the most depressing day on the Christian calendar. In English we call it “All Saints Day,” elevating our dead to a revered status, but in Spanish, “Dia de los Muertos” translates to “Day of the Dead!” We avoid “dead” and “died” in English as much as possible. No matter how we euphemise the end of our physical life we associate it with sadness. Regardless of what we would imagine the day to be it is actually a joyous celebration that rivals Easter. Today’s scriptures use words like forever, glorious inheritance, blessed! Today we replace tears with smiles.

Over the years I have observed that when the grief of loss has subsided, almost every memory we recall of your loved ones brings a smile or outright laughter. Those memories give us comfort and a keep us connected to those who have passed. While we celebrate their lives here, we rejoice that they have moved toward Heaven.

Each of the Scriptures for today points us to that heavenly eternity with those who believe. It is something for us to constantly seek while in this life. And on days like today, it assures us in our remembrances of those who came before us.
Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 2005 Consultation on Common Texts. www.commontexts.org