God has place this wonderful creation in our hands. As U2 sings, "It's a beautiful day, don't let it slip away." We have this one life to live on this beautiful planet so enjoy these reflections on God, faith, life, and music. "After the flood all of the colors came out. It's a beautiful day."

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Call to Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark a Prayer Journey, Week 10

Week 10

We have reached the final week of our journey with Mark. This week we see the person we love, the person we follow, put on trial and condemned to death. He challenged the powers that be and they fought back. The religious authorities, plotting with the local political authorities will take this Holy One of God and condemn him. They will rename his ministry as blasphemy and will use the empire to publically execute him. And we are there with him during his betrayal by companions and his desertion by friends. We are there with him through the end when everyone has run away afraid. This week invited you to make a choice. To choose Jesus, to choose the Beloved, the Holy One of God. Have you decided to follow Jesus? Have you decided to write the next chapter in the Gospel sharing your journey along the way?

Naked and Afraid, Day 64

Your Darkness, Day 65

Discipleship in the Pain, Day 66

Discipleship at the End, Day 67

What Will You Choose? Day 68

God Is Still Speaking, Day 69

Reflection  Day
       Think back over your week of prayer and study. Reread your favorite scripture.  Review any notes of insights you had from the week. Then answer:

1. What was the most important things I've learned, discovered, remembered, this week?

2. Which of the words sticks out to you this week - Pain, Execution, Darkness, Choice, Galillee, God is Still Speaking?

3. Where will you go next? 

Jesus, the Holy One of Israel, we have been on this journey with you and now here at the end and the beginning we pray that you will show us the way forwarded. We ask you to guide us as we travel down paths that lead us through the darkness on this earth where people are executed for being the wrong color, the wrong ethnicity we know you are and will always be with them for you are one of them. Be with us as we seek your light and truth to guide us as we turn back toward God and follow you. Amen.

More Light by Christopher Grundy

Here is a list of Books about the Gospel of Mark that have influenced my thought.


  • Hooker, Morna D. The Gospel according to Saint Mark. Black’s New Testament Commentaries. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991.
  • Horsley, Richard A. Hearing the Whole Story: The Politics of Plot in Mark’s Gospel (Louisville, KY: Westminster/ John Knox, 2001).
  • Juel, Donald H. The Gospel of Mark. Interpreting Biblical Texts. Nashville: Abingdon, 1999
  • Minor, Mitzi L. The Power of Mark’s Story. St. Louis: Chalice, 2001
  • Minor, Mitzi. The Spirituality of Mark: Responding to God (Aug 1, 1996)
  • Myers, Ched, Karen Lattea, et al, Say to This Mountain: Mark's Story of Dsicipleship, Orbis Books, 1996.
  • Myers, Ched. Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus. 20th Anniversary Edition. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2008.
  • Rhoads, David M. Mark as Story: An Introduction to the Narrative of a Gospel (revised edition) with Joanna Dewey and Donald Michie. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1999.
  • Rhoads, David M. Reading Mark, Engaging the Gospel. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Call to Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark a Prayer Journey, Weeks 7-9

In these next three  weeks we learn about how hard it is to follow Jesus. We start of with good intentions but then we are filled with doubt, experience rejection, get too caught up in our own ego and we forget why we started walking the way in the first place. We were invited to turn around, to turn back to God and believe. But in these next week we struggle with this we ask questions about divorce, marriage, power, money, taxes.  In this period of doubt and questions, in this time of neglect and rejection, take time to remind yourself about the Jesus you fell in love with, the Jesus who changed your heart and mind and invited you to join him on the Way. 

Week 7

Help My Unbelief, Day 43

Who is the Greatest? Day 44

Stumbling Blocks, Day 45

Divorce and Discipleship, Day 46

Welcome the Child, Day 47

Money and Discipleship, Day 48

To Serve, Day 49

Reflection  Day
       Think back over your week of prayer and study. Reread your favorite scripture.  Review any notes of insights you had from the week. Then answer:

1. What was the most important things I've learned, discovered, remembered, this week?

2.  Which of the words sticks out to you this week - smallness, greatness, servant, welcome, unbelief?

Compassionate Healer, the weariness of the journey is beginning to set in on me.  I started following you excited and passionate about serving you, but then I faltered. I get ripped up by my own needs and wants. In those moments where I fail, where I fall down, where I miss the mark, help my unbelief?  Pick me up and show me the way forward. They way toward you and God.  Amen.

Week 8

Kingdom Sight, Day 50

Parades and the Kingdom, Day 51

Prayer and Money, Day 52

How to Answer a Question? Day 53

Who Owns the Earth? Day 54

Taxes and Discipleship, Day 55

Marriage and Discipleship, Day 56
Reflection  Day
       Think back over your week of prayer and study. Reread your favorite scripture.  Review any notes of insights you had from the week. Then answer:

1. What was the most important things I've learned, discovered, remembered, this week?

2.  Which of the words sticks out to you this week - Money, Taxes, Marriage, Ownership, Questions and Celebration?

Blessed are you who come in the name of the Lord. Jesus after worship on Sunday I was so excited, I was singing your praises and ready to dance in the streets. But then on Monday I am at my job and the bills are piling up and I wonder how I will pay for everything. God how do I live in this world where the demands of money, taxes, ownership seem to pull me away from your presence?  Help me negotiate being in the world and yet following you. You know where I struggle and fail sometimes, help me to remember that you have shown us a different way to live and be. Amen.

Week 9

Reflection  Day
       Think back over your week of prayer and study. Reread your favorite scripture.  Review any notes of insights you had from the week. Then answer:

1. What was the most important things I've learned, discovered, remembered, this week?

2.  Which of the words sticks out to you this week - Betrayal, Rejection, Criminal Justice, Take and Eat, Love?

Holy One, you spent time this week showing me how important love is. I get lost sometimes and forget you while leading my life even though you asked me to love you with everything that I am and can be. Remind me that you love me, that you created me to be your beloved child. When I remember your love show me how I can love my neighbors and you. Amen.

I have Decided to Follow Jesus

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Call to Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark a Prayer Journey, Weeks 4-6

Week 4

Sowing the Kingdom, Day 22

The Beauty of Smallness, Day 23

Why Are You Afraid? Day 24

What Has the Lord Done for You? Day 25

Spirit Interruptions, Day 26

Do Not Fear, Day 27

Questions, Day 28

Reflection  Day
       Think back over your week of prayer and study. Reread your favorite scripture.  Review any notes of insights you had from the week. Then answer:

1. What was the most important things I've learned, discovered, remembered, this week?

2.  Which of the words sticks out to you this week - Good Seed, Parable, Fear, Faith, Spirit Interruptions, God's Presence?

O God we have are yearning to believe that you sow your word extravagantly hoping that everyone near and far will come to experience the Kingdom of God.  But sometimes God we are afraid.  Our doubts and our worries, our struggles and fears keep us from embracing your word.  God make us the Good soil asking our questions, expresses our doubts and still you let the word take root and grow in our hearts and our lives.  Amen.  

Week 5

Reflection  Day
       Think back over your week of prayer and study. Reread your favorite scripture.  Review any notes of insights you had from the week. Then answer:

1. What was the most important things I've learned, discovered, remembered, this week?

2.  Which of the words sticks out to you this week - Doubts, Hard Hearts, Thorny Ground, Compassion?

God, its been a rough week.  We have stumbled in our journey.  We thought once we believed, once we heard your word, it would be easy, following you would be easy, but it is harder than we expected.  God use my doubts, my worries to create in my heart space for those I want to keep out.  Create in my heart room to push through my doubts and rejection of you.  Amen.

Week 6

Be Opened, Day 36

Feed Them, Day 37

They Just Don't Get It, Day 38

Opening Our Eyes, Day 39

Who Is Jesus? Day 40

Listen to Jesus, Day 41

Suffering and Following, Day 42

Reflection  Day
       Think back over your week of prayer and study. Reread your favorite scripture.  Review any notes of insights you had from the week. Then answer:

1. What was the most important things I've learned, discovered, remembered, this week?

2.  Which of the words sticks out to you this week - hearing, seeing, suffering, understanding, listening?

Compassionate One, I am not perfect, I often fall down, I fail spectacularly even when I want to follow you faithfully. Please open my ears that I may hear you. Open my eyes that I might see the world that you see.  Open our mouths that we may speak about your work in the world and your presence in my life.  Open me up God to hear and see your truth.  Amen.  

Were I the Perfect Child of God

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Call to Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark a Prayer Journey, Week 1-3

       This is the beginning of your own journey with God through the gospel of Mark. Mark's gospel was written as an invitation to discipleship. It was mean to be an altar call at the end of hearing the whole story you were being invited to take up your cross and follow Jesus. You are invited to begin writing your own part of the story on your relationship with God and work to bring the God's Kingdom one step closer. 
       Each day for 10 weeks you are invited to spend time in prayer and study of the Gospel of Mark. I invite you to to gather a group of fellow travelers to help you deepen this experience by giving you someone to speak with about what you have learned on this journey. So set aside time each day to read through the passage and reflection and write down the questions and challenges you have experienced.  This journey through Mark is meant to help you develop a relationship with God and help move you into a life of service, of ministry, of discipleship.  

Week 1

The Beginning, Day 1

Preparing the Way, Day 2

Beloved, Day 3

Repent and Believe, Day 4

Follow Me, Day 5

Evil in the Church, Day 6

Serving Others, Day 7

Reflection  Day
       Think back over your week of prayer and study. Reread your favorite scripture.  Review any notes of insights you had from the week. Then answer:

1. What was the most important things I've learned, discovered, remembered, this week?

2.  Which of the words sticks out to you this week - follow, repent, good news, beloved?

Jesus, I have heard you calling this week inviting me to repent and believe the Good News. Help me to be open to the movement of your spirit in and through me this week.  Amen.

Week 2

Reflection  Day
       Think back over your week of prayer and study. Reread your favorite scripture.  Review any notes of insights you had from the week. Then answer:

1. What was the most important things I've learned, discovered, remembered, this week?

2.  Which of the words sticks out to you this week - Anxiety, Choosing, eating, fasting, Sabbath?

God this week we have thought a lot about what it means to choose you, to choose church, and to be chosen by you.  Help us hear God that God does choose us.  Help us to release our anxiety and accept your forgiveness so that we can be open to those neighbors we are wating to eat with.  Help us find that moment to rest in you and be restored.  Amen.

Week 3

Save a Life, Day 15

The Good News Can't Be Stopped, Day 16

The Revolutionary Moment, Day 17

When They Call you Crazy, Day 18

Knowing God's Will, Day 19

Listen, Day 20

Hearing and Understanding, Day 21

Reflection  Day
       Think back over your week of prayer and study. Reread your favorite scripture.  Review any notes of insights you had from the week. Then answer:

1. What was the most important things I've learned, discovered, remembered, this week?

2.  Which of the words sticks out to you this week - Will, Revolution, Good News, Saving A Life, Listen, Understand, Hear?

God this week have been invited to seek your will, to listen for your voice and presence.  We have stopped and tried to understand and hear clearly.  Please continue to open our ears to listen and our minds to understand.  Amen.

Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore

Sunday, October 26, 2014

God Is Still Speaking

 The Call to Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark, Day 69

The Shorter Ending of Mark
[[And all that had been commanded them they told briefly to those around Peter. And afterwards Jesus himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. ]] 
The Longer Ending of Mark
 [[Now after he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went out and told those who had been with him, while they were mourning and weeping. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.
 After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.

 Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.’

 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it. ]]  Mark 16:9-20
       So I have to admit I never read this ending of the Gospel, because it was written to fix the problem with the way Mark ended his Gospel. The people who read it didn't like that it seemed unfinished, that it wasn't neatly tied up in a bow with the disciples back together and building the kingdom and so they fixed it. They created a happy ending where those who had deserted Jesus or had run away in fear were now back in the fold. But by fixing the ending the early church tamped down the power of Mark's story and missed the call it placed on our life to take up our cross and follow.  
       But I learned something about this text this year from a blogger. This pastor spoke about not what the text says but what the potential is in the attempt. This text shows us that the story does not end that we keep writing the story. We keep adding to the work of building God's kingdom here on earth. We are the end of the Gospel and the beginning of the next chapter. So how will you you finish the story? What path will you take as you step out to follow Jesus?
      As your path leads you toward Jesus and into Galilee, you go down to the lake shore and there encounter the crowds full of hunger. While by the lake do you see that man, the one with the unkempt appearance who has white hair and beard and is surrounded by Walmart bags. He shows up in church and as he shakes your hand in the line, he got it, the word you spoke, was heard and received and it was a real genuine thank you. An encounter of peace between you. But nervousness surrounds the crowd. They want to fix him. To get him shelter and work and food. He eats some foods and walks out picking up his bags and heads back to the lake. The crowd wants you to know what they tried to do for him  But the story that stuck with you as he visits those few times is the the couple of coins he dropped into the offering plate. For he wasn't there for help or stuff. He was there to worship, to experience God's love.  
       As your path leads you toward Jesus and into Galilee, are you led to a bedside. You have been with her hearing the stories of her life and the joy she has in her children and grandchildren, her worries for the hard times some in her family are going through. And always in those visits are laughter and tears. But here now is the end. She can't speak any longer. You sit with her, you sing the songs that were important to her. You comfort her family. You are there in the sorrow and sadness. You are there sharing God's love.
       As your path leads you toward Jesus and into Galilee, you stop for a moment where evil is present, you are there in its midst helping people to find the path through the darkness and evil and into the light. This isn't an easy path for the evil can be present there in your church, in your family, in the city you live. You want the evil to go away and you have to work hard to restore wholeness.
       As your path leads you toward Jesus and into Galilee, you open yourself up to learn and experience the kingdom. You share what you have learned with your children, your friends, your family, the stranger God pushes you to speak with and share the hope and peace you have found with Jesus.
       As your path leads you toward Jesus and into Galilee, you experience the suffering, the injustice and you don't just walk by. You remember that Jesus tried to change the world, to confront power. And while you wish you could keep the world and your faith separate, you are pulled into the center of power to challenge the injustice in order to bring God' kingdom closer.
       What story will you share of your path?  How will you write this next chapter of your journey with God and Jesus?  Will you stop here for a moment and see where God is pulling you, pushing you, dragging you into the work of following the way, being a disciple, loving the world. 

Prayer Practice:
     Here is the path before you. You have stopped to listen to God's voice calling you, speaking to you, asking you to write the next chapter. Sit here in the stillness, letting God prepare you for the next step on the path.  And when you are ready breathe in deeply and then take the first step on this path.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

What Will You Choose

 The Call to Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark, Day 68 

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.  Mark 16:1-8
       We have reached the last story that Mark has to tell us about Jesus and discipleship. Mark has brought us to a point of decision. He wants us to choose what we will do now that we have heard and experienced the Good News? What will we do now that we know who Jesus is and have heard about God's kingdom? What we will choose to do now that we know? Mark is not unbiased in what decision he wants you to make. He has carefully and subtly led you to this point of decision.  
      So in this last story he tells us about what happens to the last of Jesus' followers. The women who have been following Jesus return to his grave to anoint him. They are wondering about how they will roll the stone in front of his tomb away, but as they arrive they see the stone has already been rolled away. And there is the young man who had lost his clothes fleeing from the authorities is now robed in white and sitting on the right. The women are alarmed, scared, worried. This young man said to them, "Don't be afraid. You are looking for Jesus, he has been raised and is not here. Go tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him." The women fled the tomb in terror and amazement. They said nothing to anyone for they were afraid. They said nothing for they were afraid.  
       They said nothing, for they were afraid. If these women who followed Jesus, who demonstrated servant leadership will say nothing, how will we respond to this fear and silence? Mark is calling you to speak out, to follow Jesus, to take over where all of Jesus' followers have failed. Will you speak? Will you follow? Will you go to Galilee to meet Jesus? Will you go to Galilee - the place where Jesus showed us the dawning kingdom by being with the people and going to the places where God's heart is? Will you encounter the demons in church, the evil in the religious institutions and cleanse it (Mk 1:21-28)? Will you heal those who are hurt and sick by bringing God's desire for health and wholeness to people who need healing (Mk 1:29-34)? Will you preach the Good News? Will ask people to repent? Will you invite people to turn back toward God and believe (Mk 1:14-15, 39)? Will you spend time in church and alone with God to renew and revive your self, to learn about God's word (Mk 1:22-23, 35)? Will you welcome into your community the outsider, the outcast, the lost, the lonely, the one who feels unloved and unforgiven? Will you allow God to choose you (Mk 1:40-45, 2:1-12? Will you eat with those who are strangers and undesirable? Will you open your table extravagantly and abundantly? Will you feast with the tax collectors and sinners? Will you eat in the wilderness with the crowds thanking and blessing the food you have been given (Mk 2:13-28, 6:30-44)? This is the Galilee where you are called to meet Jesus? Will you hear the call? Will you answer the fear and silence by saying yes, I will speak, I will share the Good News, I will go where you send me?

Prayer Practice:
Take a moment to get comfortable.  Breath in and out releasing the worries and concerns of the day.  

Jesus, I heard you call Repent and believe the Good News. We are scared of the challenge of discipleship? You call us to journey with you to the places in our world and community where people are hurt and in need of wholeness. You call us to be present with those who are hurt and lonely. You call us to welcome the unlovable and undesirable. Please be with me here in this moment helping us to choose to move forward into the mystery, the danger, the hope of your call. Amen.

The Summons: Will You Come and Follow Me


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Discipleship at the End

 The Call to Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark, Day 67

     They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.
     It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read, ‘The King of the Jews.’ And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!’ In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.’ Those who were crucified with him also taunted him. When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, ‘Listen, he is calling for Elijah.’ And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.’ Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’
      There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem. When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.    .Mark 15:21-47
       At this darkest hour, what does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? What does it mean to follow a man who has received the death penalty from the state? What does it means to follow one who with his last breath cried, "My God, My God, why, have you forsaken me?" He is surrounded by people who revile him - the religious folk, the soldiers, the other criminals being put to death - with all that torment how do we follow?  
       The text gives us some clues on what it means to follow even in the dark, even when you don't know what it means, even when the beloved is dying. Our first clue comes from the stranger. To follow Jesus can come from an unexpected source. You may be drawn into you're call when you are on your way to somewhere else. "They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus." Not the day he had planned. Here was a man from the country in the big city and he is dragged into the punishment of Jesus. He is forced to carry the cross. He is from the outside, a stranger. We learn that he is the father. The children are given names. This is a unique scene in Mark for we don't usually have names and people who aren't even present are named. So this experience must of had an impact on Simon and those children. Did he return to the country and share the Good News about Jesus? Did that change his children's lives and did they turn and share the Good News of God with those around them? Did they demonstrate to others how to share the burden?
       Are next clue comes from a soldier. He is there while all of the soldiers taunt and torment Jesus. He is there as they beat and disrespect Jesus. He has seen all they have done to him. He is there when Jesus cries out to God and breaths his last. He is there carrying out the state's death penalty. "Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’" He who carried out the death penalty, he saw Jesus. He truly saw Jesus and says, "this is God's son." He sees Jesus not as a criminal but as one from God. If it wasn't too late for this soldier, it is not to late for us to turn and believe.
Mohegan Woman statue in Williams Bay, WI
       Watching from a distance were the women, Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother, Salome. These women who have been quietly in the background: following, ministering too, serving Jesus. "These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem." There were all of these women who came, who followed, who stayed with Jesus even when everyone has deserted and fled. Yet these women silently bare witness. How many of us silently bare witness, silently serve and follow? How many women are there providing for the work of building God's kingdom? This is one of important ways we follow Jesus. By serving others we are showing our discipleship.  
       Then there is Joseph. He is one of the religious leaders. But he is different from those who demanded his death and state execution. For he is one who was "waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God." He takes care of Jesus after his death. Caring for his body when his friends, his disciples are gone. He reminds us that even among people we think are hypocrites, who don't practice religion they way we believe it should be practiced, there are still good people who will work for the good of God's kingdom if we but look.  
       On this day when we experience the pain and torture of death. We experience that there are still ways to experience God's presence and follow Jesus even into those places that are the hardest to enter.  
Prayer Practice:
Just breath.  

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Discipleship in the Pain

The Call to Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark, Day 66 

As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ He answered him, ‘You say so.’ Then the chief priests accused him of many things. Pilate asked him again, ‘Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.’ But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.

 Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. Then he answered them, ‘Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?’ For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Pilate spoke to them again, ‘Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?’ They shouted back, ‘Crucify him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Crucify him!’ So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

 Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.  
                                                                                         Mark 15:1-20
       I have struggled with how to write about Chapter 14 and 15 in Mark's Gospel. These chapters are hard for me on this discipleship journey because those who followed Jesus have disappeared. Jesus is being beaten, imprisoned, and mocked. He is put on trial by first the religious authorities and then the political authorities. If the disciples have betrayed, deserted and denied Jesus, how are we to stay faithful, to continue to follow Jesus. How do we stay here with Jesus in the pain and heartbreak? How do we stay here when the world is tearing Jesus apart?  
        This question has been ever present in my mind as the news this summer has been unfolding. With planes being shot from the sky full of people on the way to a vacation but crossing the path of armed conflict. With people trapped on mountains by a group of people determined to create a state in a place already governed that has multiple faith communities but this group wants one and only one way and is willing to kill and behead people to gets its way. With young people being shot without even checking to see if they are armed, with young people being shot because we have decided that their bodies are not worthy. With people who are demanding change being met with armored vehicles and tear gas. With daily news reports of another young person dead, caught in the crossfire. How do we stay there in the pain, the anger, the terror? How do we respond to this pain? Do we flee, run away, do we desert the pain? That's the example the disciples gave us of fleeing when the rubber hits the road, when the trouble strikes. But how should we respond? What should we do?  
       If our job is to follow Jesus, we need to look at his response to situations of pain and conflict. In this trial, Jesus is being asked to accept an identity, a name, a role that he hasn't claimed. Pilot, the government authority, the empire's symbol of power, ask's Jesus if he is the King of the Jews. Notice Jesus' response, he says, "You say so." The religious authority and the government authority are making Jesus into a threat to the political order. But Jesus doesn't claim this identity. Jesus doesn't accept their definition of who he is. Jesus claims to be the teacher, the Son of Man, the Beloved, the Messiah, the son of the Blessed One. Jesus' understanding of this is very different from the expectations of a Messiah. He is not the King of the People; he is not seeking to be a military hero. He is showing us a different way. Jesus' understanding of being the Beloved of God is to walk with the people who are hurting, who are captives, who are in need of healing. He walks among them sharing the Good News of God. He heals people. He frees people from what binds them and shows us a different way to live. We are invited to stay with people in their pain and to confront the authorities who are causing this pain, by going to their seat of power and saying enough. We are to say this is not how we are meant to live with each other, this is not how we are to treat each other. And we are to seek God in those moments of pain, to take the time to pour out our heart break, our anger, our outrage and ask God's will.  
Prayer Practice:
God, sometimes the pain and the hurt is to real, too deep. We want to turn away from the feeling and emotions it is causing in us. We want to run away to a happier time and place. Yet the pain will still be there. The people who are hurting and being hurt will still be struggling with a system that has stacked the deck against the. So God help us to stay with you and feel your presence in the midst of the heartache, the injustice, the pain. And while we have stopped here this moment to rest in your presence, please comfort and strengthen us. Show us your way forward, show us your will. Amen.  

Le Tenebre/ Our Darkness Taize

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Darkness Inside

The Call to Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark, Day 65 

They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were assembled. Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, warming himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none. For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree. Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying, ‘We heard him say, “I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.” ’ But even on this point their testimony did not agree. Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, ‘Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?’ But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ Jesus said, ‘I am; and “you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power”, and “coming with the clouds of heaven.” ’ 
Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?’ All of them condemned him as deserving death. Some began to spit on him, to blindfold him, and to strike him, saying to him, ‘Prophesy!’ The guards also took him over and beat him.
While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, ‘You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.’ But he denied it, saying, ‘I do not know or understand what you are talking about.’ And he went out into the forecourt. Then the cock crowed. And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, ‘This man is one of them.’ But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, ‘Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.’ But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, ‘I do not know this man you are talking about.’ At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ And he broke down and wept.  Mark 14:53-72
       The person you trust the most. The person you have looked up to as a mentor, a friend. The person who has taught you so much about the world. This person who knows the worst about you. Learns the worst thing you have ever done. You are standing there with nothing hidden anymore, the worst thing anyone could find out about you is now out in the open.  And you break down. You loose it and fall apart. The tears just will not stop.  
       This is the moment for Peter his soul is bared before God. He has done the worst thing imaginable. He has rejected Jesus. Jesus has been captured and brought before the religious council. They have accused him a blasphemy and Peter followed along and watched. He watched as people spoke against Jesus as they told untruth after untruth. He sat warming himself at the fire with the guards who had arrested. As these false witnesses spoke, they contradicted each other until after hearing it all you knew that what was spoken was not true. This trial seemed a joke because what was being said just did not create the picture of fairness and honesty. It is clear, there will be no truth spoken by those conducting this trial. And the one witness who could speak the truth is hanging out getting warm.
       So after the witnesses have spoken the prosecutor asks how do you respond to what they have to say. Jesus doesn't speak. He has a choice, will he let this false witness stand or will he speak. Jesus doesn't speak. He doesn't have anything to say on a question of combating the lies and untruths about him. But as that question is being asked was he thinking about where his integrity lies. Will he speak his own truth? Will he speak about his mission and ministry? Will he speak about who he is in God's dawning kingdom? So another question comes at him. 'Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ and Jesus says, "I am."  Jesus owns his identity as messiah, as a Holy One of God, as a beloved of God. This sends the prosecutor over the edge, tearing his garments. He urges them having heard the blasphemy to vote. They vote to condemn him to death, they spit on him and hit him.  
       Peter is watching this there by the fire. He sees the ill treatment, the disrespect shown Jesus. And then he does it. The worst part of himself is laid bare. When he is outed as a follower of Jesus at the fire. He says I don't know what you are talking about and gets up and moves into a different part of the courtyard. But that servant girl tells those around him that he is one of Jesus' followers. Peter denied it. But after a while those around him speak of it again. Peter denies even knowing him. And at that moment, Peter notices the cock crowing and realizes what he has done.  
       Peter the last of the disciples present has denied and now deserted Jesus. He has done the worst thing he could imagine. He has forgotten who he is and who he follows. This is the worst moment of his life. His soul is all its pain and ugliness is laid open before God. God and Jesus knows the worst there is in him and he breaks down and cries.  
      If this was the end of the story, for Peter all looks lost. For he is at his lowest point. When we are there in the darkest point, when we have to face the worst there is to know about ourselves. That part of our being, the dark side that we don't want to acknowledge or face about ourselves. Well Peter is there, it is right before him. He breaks down and the tears flow. Part of our discipleship journey is to recognize those dark parts of ourselves. The parts that we need to work on and change. We have to come face to face with the parts of ourselves that fail, that fall short of who we want to be, who we hope to be, who we are called to be. And when we come face to face with those parts of ourselves we have a choice. We can continue to downward spiral and stay trapped in the sorrow. We can then choose to bury that side of ourselves, put it back in the hidden recesses where we don't acknowledge it and move forward ignoring that part of us. Or we can choose to acknowledge our weakness and move forward. We can learn to recognize its presence and choose to act differently when we want to fall back on out worst characteristics.  
       For Peter this is not the end of the story. He does get lost in the darkness for a while, but Jesus knows he will turn around, will repent, and turn back to God. For at the end of the Gospel, the women are told to find Peter and tell him what happened. Peter is given a second chance. He is invited gain to Galilee and begin the journey again.  

Prayer Practice:  
As you sit quietly with God, think about that place inside you that you fear sharing with God. Bring it out into the open and acknowledge your failing. As you think about this part of yourself, hear the whisper. Repent. Here the call, turn around. Hear the voice calling, turn back to me. The voice looks at your failing and invites you to believe the Good News and help build the dawning kingdom. Amen.

Change by Tracy Chapman

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Naked and Afraid

      The Call to Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark, Day 64

Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’ So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. Then they laid hands on him and arrested him. But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.’ All of them deserted him and fled.
      A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.                                                                                                                  Mark 14:43-52
        Have you seen those commercials for Naked and Afraid, they do survivor but without clothes. The end of our passage today leaves us naked and afraid and worried about survival. But how did we get there? 
       The time Jesus has been telling us about has arrived. The Betrayal is at hand. While Jesus had been speaking about the fate of prophets and what will happen to him because of the actions of others. For here it is the worst betrayal you could imagine. Under the cover of darkness a member of your inner circle comes calling you teacher, kisses you and puts you in the hands of those who mean you harm.   
      So why did he betray Jesus. We know he got money, but is that the reason. Was he unhappy with the way Jesus was preaching the word? Was he wanting a messiah who encouraged people to take up arms and fight against the oppressors in order bring back a time of glory? Did he just always get rubbed wrong by everything Jesus did? He would hear him speak and think that this isn't what we should do or where we should go? So why instead of speaking with Jesus did he offer to bring him totally and completely down? Why did he turn to those who wouldn't just rejects Jesus' work but intended him harm? I don't buy the God intended this and someone had to do it. I don't buy the Satan made me do it argument. So there was a part of Judas that just did not like the vision Jesus was casting? And so he looked for a way to stop it and turned to the people opposed to Jesus' ministry.  
       There in the dark of the night, away from the crowds. These religious folk who have been plotting his downfall, come in the dark of night, away from those who would protest this action. They come up laying hands on Jesus. Those words to me bring up images of a rough arrest, not a gentle cuffing of hands, but an extra push, a little shove, a slap or choke hold. And when they do this, one of Jesus' followers who carried a weapon strikes back. This follower of Jesus reacts with violence to violence. Everything Jesus has taught, everything he stands for is falling apart. The disciples are losing the vision, they are losing their way and forgetting the call to turn toward God and the coming kingdom. The followers of Jesus flee. The run away. They desert Jesus and flee this confrontation. They leave Jesus alone in the custody of the police. The final one to stay and unnamed young man who when they lay hands on him flees leaving behind even his clothes. The last follower flees naked and afraid. 
      The disciples are gone they have left even their clothes behind. As followers of Jesus what will you choose at this moment? Will you too at the first sign of trouble, tragedy, death, sorrow, turn away from God. Will you leave Jesus behind? Will you turn your back on God? When you are ready will you hear Jesus' words: "Repent, The Kingdom of God is at Hand, Believe." Will you choose to turn back, to turn around to face toward God?

Prayer Practice:
   God when we are in a dark place, where we feel we are surrounded by enemies, when we feel as if there is no hope, remind us again of your presence. Remind us of your everlasting love. Give us the hope necessary to take the next step forward. Show us how to return to you. Amen.  

Jesus Was an Only Son by Bruce Springsteen