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, 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.