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."

Monday, June 16, 2014

Choosing Life after Betrayal

 The Call to Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark, Day 60

      It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; for they said, ‘Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.’                          While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, ‘Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.’ And they scolded her. But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’                                                                                                    Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.  Mark 14:1-11
       Bill Clinton has never been my favorite president and not for the reason you may think, it was August. My husband had just returned from his summer program for a Masters in Spanish. I was watching the president tell the nation that I did not have sex with that woman (well really an intern who should always be off limits). And his definition of sex is a little skewed, for if the other person helped it along you had sex. So hearing all this on tv, I shut it off and went to bed. My son's father said I fell in love with someone else this summer while at school. I love her. Seriously Bill Clinton and now my husband. There it was between us this ultimate betrayal. He choose to let someone else move into his affection while he should have been remembering he was at school working to create a better life for our son. I don't love you. I never loved you. How can I be with someone who doesn't like to exercise. Betrayal. Your world sort of tilts sideways and you don't know what to do at that point. You know that yes you are overweight but you have always been overweight. But your still cute, so it isn't about weight. It isn't even about you. But you feel as if the world has crashed in. And so you always have this feeling of angst whenever you see Bill Clinton. It's not logical, but its there. Betrayal. At that point you get mad at him, a her, at Bill Clinton. But at some point you have to choose to move forward, to move differently. You have to choose to live, to choose life.  
        In our passage today, Jesus is betrayed. Not just because some other religious folk want to take him down but one of the twelve, one of the insiders, one of those chosen to receive special teaching, one who has knowledge of God's kingdom. This friend and follower goes to these religious folk, and offered to betray Jesus. The religious folk offer to pay him for the betrayal. Judas then begins looking for his chance to betray Jesus. This story of betrayal surrounds a story of choosing life, of living in the moment and accepting the gifts / the kindness offered to us. The story in the middle has Jesus eating at the house of a Simon, a leper. Jesus in these last days is continuing to welcome into the kingdom those who are left out, who are undesirable. During this meal a woman, unnamed and nameless comes and anoints Jesus with oil. The religious folk who should be anointing the messiah, the messenger of God are plotting his demise. Instead a woman, comes and anoints him. She offers this gift. She believes all that he has taught about his coming trial and death and prepares him. She believes before the action happens. She follows him in preparation for what comes next. She represents all we have been told about discipleship, the greatness of the small, the last being first. She chooses life. Living the coming kingdom, while the disciples worry about money and try to stop the gift. The complain that this gift could be better spent helping the poor. Jesus says, what she has done is good and will be remembered. While the disciples worry about money, she embodies both service and the ability to follow even in the face of the cross.  
      In the face of betrayal, we are invited to choose life. To live in the moment and accept the gifts offered to us. In those moments of betrayal, we are invited to continue to live, to celebrate the life we have. This ability to chose life does not come easily. I still have angsty feelings about Bill Clinton, but we are invited to remember the gift, to remember to find the moments of joy and celebration, to find those time when we can be of service to others.

Prayer practice:
Take time this day to walk his way. To walk the path of Jesus.  


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Discipleship After Jesus

 The Call to Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark, Day 59

That's great, it starts with an earthquake
Birds and snakes, an aeroplane, and Lenny Bruce is not afraid 
Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn
World serves its own needs, don't misserve your own needs
Feed it up a knock, speed, grunt, no, strength
The ladder starts to clatter with a fear of height, down, height
Wire in a fire, represent the seven games
And a government for hire and a combat site
Left her, wasn't coming in a hurry with the Furies breathing down your neck                                                 R.E.M. It's The End of The World As We Know It
 As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!’ 2Then Jesus asked him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.’
3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4‘Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?’ 5Then Jesus began to say to them, ‘Beware that no one leads you astray. 6Many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and they will lead many astray. 7When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.
            9 ‘As for yourselves, beware; for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them. 10And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 13and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
          14 ‘But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; 15someone on the housetop must not go down or enter the house to take anything away; 16someone in the field must not turn back to get a coat. 17Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! 18Pray that it may not be in winter. 19For in those days there will be suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, no, and never will be. 20And if the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he has cut short those days. 21And if anyone says to you at that time, “Look! Here is the Messiah!” or “Look! There he is!”—do not believe it. 22False messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23But be alert; I have already told you everything.
24 ‘But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
   and the moon will not give its light,
25 and the stars will be falling from heaven,
   and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
26Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory. 27Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
           28 ‘From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
           32 ‘But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.’                                                                                          Mark 13
How do we sleep when our beds are burning?  When we don't know what is next. 
when it seems as if the world is out of control life is out of control, people are carrying guns and shooting people, kids are being held in detention centers when they are just trying to escape violence and find family, young girls stab a friend, jobs are lost, houses are lost, family is lost, the pews are empty.  I start singing my favorite end of the world songs.

The Beds are Burning by Midnight Oil

How do we dance when our beds are burning?  What are we called to be and do in a world out of control? When we are seeking and searching for God and instead we find war and rumors of war? In this section of Mark's Gospel, we are told about the end of the line. About what to do next when the man we have followed seems lost to us for he will no longer walk beside us teaching and preaching, challenging and pushing? Instead we will have to go on, we will have to move forward one step at a time.  

It's the end of the line.  Mark, chapter 13, wants to prepare us for this time. Jesus speaks of some of the dangers that will be present in the future and what we should do. We are invited to continue sharing the word. We have read the word, we have listened to the word preached, we have experienced the word acted out in the signs and wonders, the stories and contact that Jesus made with all he encountered, and now it is our turn to spread the word. With the word to guide and strengthen us we to give shelter to the lost, the lonely, the hungry, the rejected, the outcast, the hurt, the despairing

We are to stay aware, stay awake, to watch for God's movement around us for new shoots are sprouting in dead trees. We are to keep alert, to watch for God and spread the word.  

Prayer Practice:
Spend time with your favorite apocalypse song. Ask God to show you where you need to stay awake and keep alert.  Amen.

Friday, June 6, 2014

What is Godly?

 The Call to Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark, Day 58

While Jesus was teaching in the temple, he said, ‘How can the scribes say that the Messiah is the son of David? David himself, by the Holy Spirit, declared,
“The Lord said to my Lord,
‘Sit at my right hand,
   until I put your enemies under your feet.’ ”
David himself calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?’ And the large crowd was listening to him with delight.
 As he taught, he said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’
 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’ Mark 12:35-44
What makes a Godly person? Recently, I have been having a text conversation with a young mother who began the conversation struggling with the question: what does it mean to submit to one's husband. Granted a question I wanted to just throw out and say they are taking a scripture and using it to oppress women. But I started slow and would end my side with a question about how did Jesus treat women. So she would ask more about the way he loved and welcomed women. We talked about the healing of young girls and old women, about fighting with mothers and learning from them to expand his ministry. We then looked at what Jesus said about marriage (not a lot by the way) with kingdom marriage being gone for we are as angels. She asked why God created us from the bone of Adam and I talked about Adams loneliness and moved us to Genesis one where God created us male and female in the image of God. We talked about submission and authority being based more on tradition and a desire to returned to an idealized, simpler past that never existed. The conversation then moved to what makes a Godly women or man. I pointed her to the Sermon on the Mount and the greatest commandment. These point us to a way of living that challenges our normal patterns of living where we are to forgive, love, pray, be merciful, spirit -filled. I know she wanted me to tell her what to do and I pointed her to the word, but I will admit she was speaking a language I am not comfortable with. To be Godly comes from a flavor of Christianity that I don't immerse myself in. So I tried to point her to discipleship.  
       In today's passage, Jesus is teaching in the temple, he begins by raising questions of who the Messiah is. For the scribes, say the Messiah is the son of David - a king, a soldier, a deliverer. Jesus argues that David says the Messiah sits at the right hand of God and he called the messiah Lord not his son. Jesus wants the scribes to realize the messiah is different than what you think. You are looking for the wrong kind of deliverance - it won't be a soldier.
      This teaching continues with a critique of the scribes and what it means to be religious. Jesus points out that we need to be careful of those in church who wear the right clothes, require the proper language, need to have places of value and honor. We need to look at how their practices devour the poor and vulnerable (widows). They pray for show. God will challenge these people, God will push these people to be different. Or as Jesus says God will condemn them. After preaching against this group of religious, he sits down opposite the treasury and watches as people make offerings. He saw many wealthy people put in large sums of money. As he watched a poor widow dropped in two copper coins. Jesus gathers the disciples and said to them that the widow gave more than all the wealthy. For the widow gave everything she had, while the rich gave out of their abundance without even flinching a bit. She put in her whole living.  
      So to be Godly is not about the amount of money we give, it is not about outward signs of piety, or what committees you belong to. To be Godly is to live fully into your relationship with God. To give all that you are into this relationship. So how do we know what is real. That we aren't contributing our all because of obligation or to be seen and respected. To be Godly is to change your inside as well as your outside so who we are and how we act is because of our relationship to God. This doesn't mean we always get it right, but we are trying to live into our identity as beloved children of God.  

Prayer Practice:
Inspired by Love and Anger (Iona Community)
Inspired by love and anger, disturbed by need and painInformed of God’s own bias, we ask him once again:How long must some folk suffer? How long can few folk mind?How long dare vain self interest turn prayer and pity blind? 
From those forever victims of heartless human greedTheir cruel plight composes a litany of need:Where are the fruits of justice? Where are the signs of peace?When is the day when prisoners dream and find their release? 
From those forever shackled to what their wealth can buyThe fear of lost advantage provokes the bitter cryDon’t query our position!  Don’t criticise our wealth!Don’t mention those exploited by politics and stealth!
To God, who through the prophets proclaimed a different ageWe offer earth’s indifference, its agony and rage:When will the wronged by righted?  When will the Kingdom come?When will the world be generous to all instead of some? 
God asks, Who will go for me?  Who will extend my reach?And who, when few will listen, will prophesy and preach?And who,when few bid welcome,will offer all they know?And who, when few dare follow, will walk the road I show? 
Amused in someone’s kitchen, asleep in someone’s boat,Attuned to what the ancients exposed, proclaimed, and wrote,A savior, without safety, a tradesman without toolsHas come to tip the balance with fishermen and fools.
Inspired by Love and Anger

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Love -Foundational to our Faith

 The Call to Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark, Day 57

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ Then the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that “he is one, and besides him there is no other”; and “to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength”, and “to love one’s neighbour as oneself”,—this is much more important than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.’ When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ After that no one dared to ask him any question.  Mark 12:28-34
        What is the essence of faith? This is the challenge presented to Jesus, by a scribe who had heard the other challenges and debates with Jesus, and thought he answered well. He approaches Jesus and asks: "Which commandment is the first of all?" Jesus says: "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” So loving God is at the center of faith. A love that places God in everything you do and say. With every part of your being God is loved from your thoughts to your body, from your strength to your soul. And after love of God, the love of neighbor is next. So Jesus places the people we encounter daily as where we are to show God's love. 
       So how do you answer this question. Not now that you know what Jesus said to put at the center of our faith, but what do you actually place at the center of your faith and how does this shape how you act? Do you believe that Jesus died for your sins to save you and therefore saving others souls is becomes an imperative because there are life and death consequences to believing in Jesus as saviour. Do you believe the center of our faith is to go out into the world, baptizing and making disciples? Does this lead you out of your building and into your neighborhoods sharing faith with those you encounter? Do you believe the essence of faith is that God will never give you more than you can handle? Do you believe that when God has blessed you you will be blessed with money, family, job? Do you believe that the essence of faith is coming to church on Sunday morning and raising your kids to be faithful? Do you believe the essence of faith is to say the right words that makes Jesus your Lord and Saviour and acknowledges your sin? Do you believe your faith propels you out in the world to share compassion with the world? 
        But how does the center of your faith change is you take what Jesus says is the essence of faith to heart. How would this change how you live? If this is the heart of faith: why have we let other ideas become central to what we believe and how we act? When the scribe hears this he agreed and Jesus said to him you are not far from the kingdom. So to become a disciple is to put the love of God in all that you do? I am reminded of the Monks who spend their day saying the Jesus prayer with their every breath. To love God in everything we do. To be mindful of God when we wake and wash, when we cook and eat, when we work and play. Then when you have learned how to be mindful of God's presence in all we do and say, we are to act out of this love in the world? We are to heal the hurting, bind up the wounded, welcome the lost and lonely, free those who are held captive, fight evil, challenge authority with God's dream. This is not easy and there are times we will not love with our all. Sometimes we won't even like those we encounter that much. But with this commandment as our breath prayer we are forgiven and can begin again.  

Prayer Practice:
Today as you stop and reach for God.  Let yourself say on your breath 
"Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”

Everyday by Dave Matthews