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John 8:1-11: Throwing Stones – Part III

Friday, July 29, 2016take on hate

What tax or tithe do we surrender when we give in to the temptation to throw stones? 

Hate crimes. What are they? How do they affect us? Why does society worry about hate that flourishes among us to stalks the innocent?

Swarms of people came to Jesus. He sat down and taught them.

Societies might ignore the hate that simmers beneath the surface or they may ignore the anger that erupts into the open. They may even covertly or overtly encourage division for whatever reason governs their thinking.

The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone.

Crimes that spring from hatred of “the other” also spring from the teaching that we must divide and categorize ourselves, and that some of us deserve more and less than others for reasons laid out by a controlling few.

They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him. “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” 

With hatred, a majority often dictates to a minority. Often the crime of hatred is nurtured by harbored thoughts of inadequacy and/or resentment. With hatred, we must take our division to Christ to ask for healing.

Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. 

At times we are the condemned woman, at times we are the hypocritical accusers, at times we are innocent victims of the unjust. In all cases we must respond as Jesus responds: Does no one condemn you? Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.

Throwing stones is a dangerous temptation. Throwing stones puts us in ambiguous positions. Throwing stones nurtures division and does not encourage understanding or inclusion. Today we reflect on the problem of hate crimes as we determine to pray and work for an end to this violence.

For information on hate crimes visit the United States National Crime Prevention Council site at: http://www.ncpc.org/topics/hate-crime  or to understand what action we might take to take on the hatred among us, click on the image or visit: https://www.accesscommunity.org/news/community-stories/2015/02/18/hate-crimes-are-rise-what-can-we-do-takeonhate

 


John 8:1-11: Throwing Stones – Part II

Thursday, July 28, 2016honor killings

What tax or tithe do we surrender when we give in to the temptation to throw stones? 

We prepare to meet friends and family and celebrate important events. We gather to worship, to play, to study, to learn or to work. We read news feeds, Twitter feeds and fact-check the information that often poses as fact. When we are overwhelmed by natural and human catastrophe, we look for wisdom and peace. We go to God’s Word.

Swarms of people came to Jesus. He sat down and taught them.

Societies are free to establish mores and codes of conduct; yet we ask if they are free to extinguish life without benefit of full and fair justice.

The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone.

Honor killings are a way of life in a number of cultures, among certain peoples. Like Jesus, we might gently ask who among us is without sin.

They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him. “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” 

Like Jesus, we might offer forgiveness rather than judgment, love rather than hate, an invitation rather than condemnation.

 Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. 

At times we are the condemned woman, at times we are the hypocritical accusers, at times we are innocent victims of the unjust. In all cases we must respond as Jesus responds: Does no one condemn you? Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.

Throwing stones is a dangerous temptation. Throwing stones puts us in ambiguous positions. Throwing stones nurtures division and does not encourage understanding or inclusion. Today we reflect on the problem of honor killings as we determine to pray and work for an end to this violence.

For data, research reports, media articles and other information on honor-killings, click on the image above or visit the Honour Based Violence Awareness Network International Resource Center at: http://hbv-awareness.com/


John 8:1-11: Throwing Stones – Part I

Wednesday, July 27, 2016stones with heart

What tax or tithe do we surrender when we give in to the temptation to throw stones? 

In our public and private lives, in our work places, in our houses of worship, in our homes . . . we are constantly called to judge one another. Where so we learn how to handle our tendency to judge?

Swarms of people came to Jesus. He sat down and taught them.

Christ still walks among us and teaches us through our own spiritual core where the Spirit speaks, and through the words and actions of others whom God sends into our path. When we silence the noise of the word and withdraw for a time as Jesus does, we allow a space for God to speak to us. Even then, there will be those who challenge us. And they will frequently hide among the holy, the expert and the innocent. What do we do to distill the Word of God?

The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone.

In all circumstances and at all times we are vulnerable to the trick questions and false fronts of those who take advantage of our better nature. What do we say when we are hard-pressed by deceivers?

stonesThey were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him. “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” 

On all days and at all hours we face confusion and obfuscation. When we do as Jesus does and answer the deceptive dare with a question that goes to the core of the deceit, we invite Christ into the conversation.

 Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. 

At times we are the condemned woman, at times we are the hypocritical accusers, at times we are innocent victims of the unjust. In all cases we must respond as Jesus responds: Does no one condemn you? Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.

Throwing stones is a dangerous temptation. Throwing stones puts us in ambiguous positions. Throwing stones nurtures division and does not encourage understanding or inclusion. Today we chose a circumstance, environment, or situation at which we want to throw stones. We reflect on this story and we look for ways to apply it to our own lives.

For a reflection on the distinction between throwing stones and giving grace, click on the image above or visit: http://sharperiron.org/article/showered-with-stones-or-grace 


Matthew 2:13-14: Migration – Part II

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Flight into Egypt

Flight into Egypt

We are familiar with the problem of migration in modern society. Not only does evil force families to uproot lives and shift to foreign lands, it also stalks the very societies that offer haven. In the presence of this evil, we consider the anger and rage that sends families into exile, and we recall that Mary, Jesus and Joseph were forced to migrate to a foreign land in search of safety. Today we read again the familiar words but with an openness to the plight of migrants looking for safe harbor. We renew our commitment to Christ who asks that we pray for those who hide among the innocent to commit horrendous acts of malice. And we ask for the intercession of the Spirit in the lives of all who forced into migration.

Refugees on the island of Lesbos, autumn 2015

If there is time today, focus on a news story about migration and bring your prayer together with al those who work for peace in homelands and abroad. If we are able, we might render our tithes to an organization that works for local or global peace.

To read a sermon entitled “Holiness Always Wins,” click on the image of the flight into Egypt, or visit: https://interruptingthesilence.com/2014/01/06/holiness-always-wins-a-sermon-on-matthew-213-15-19-23/ 

For drone footage of refugees moving through Slovenia, click on the image from Lesbos, or visit: 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/eureferendum/11986994/The-migrant-crisis-is-a-mere-gust-of-the-hurricane-that-will-soon-engulf-Europe.html 


Genesis 46:1-4Migration – Part IPyramids

Monday, July 25, 2016

I am thinking about how I typically react when God asks me to migrate.  Not in the physical sense – for I have lived and worked and worshiped in the same places my entire life.  I am thinking about the so many times I have been asked to migrate in or out of a relationship, to or away from a task, toward or away from a habit.  Usually my reaction is doubt . . . doubt that I have not heard the inner voice well.  Doubt may be a sign of prudence and healthy caution.  Doubt can also be a sign of recalcitrance, stubbornness, or a lack of faith.

I am reading today’s selection and I am reflecting on the fact that so many times in scripture we hear the Father who created us or the Son who redeemed us whisper to us: Fear not, for I am with you.  I will be with you until the end of the age.  Chapter 43 of Isaiah begins with the beautiful idea that no matter  our circumstances, God will continue to remind us that we redeemed, loved, and each named by God . . . and and called by that name.

Our days are full of activity and noise, but we might continue to think about this idea as we go about all we must do before our heads hit the pillow:  When we are called to migrate, what must we change in ourselves so that we might trust God more?  Do we not remember that even when we step wrongly, we are sustained by the one who created us?  We will want to answer swiftly as Jacob did, “Here I am, Lord”! 

As we examine our need to migrate spiritually, emotionally and physically, we also pray for those who are forced to migrate from the places and people they love.

Adapted from a favorite written on July 31, 2008. 


Mark 12:13-17: Taxes and Tithes

Rubens: Render Unto Caesar

Rubens: Render Unto Caesar

Sunday. July 24, 2016

News outlets continue to remind us that political and social turmoil continues to rock peoples and cultures around the world. Demographic shifts, political corruption and greed, social unrest and fear might govern our emotions and actions and yet amid the cacophony of anxiety and alarm there is always a place to find rest. In the storm of human life there is always a refuge of peace.

We render our taxes to those would lead us. We tithe our time, talent and funds to those who guide the spirit. Despite all of this worldly giving, it is more important than ever to tend to our relationship with God. Nurturing that most important bond with time dedicated to communal and individual prayer, we acknowledge the belief that God is ultimately in charge. Walking in the mystery and love of The Way, we recognize that Jesus shows us the only way to peace. Living in the Spirit in the face of anger and fear, we accept the comfort and consolation of the Spirit within. Let us share this wisdom with those around us. And let us remember that when we render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s . . . it is all the important to under unto God that which is God’s.

This week we will examine our public and private worlds to see how we might render our taxes and tithes. 


Matthew 21:23-27Authority Questioned

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Tissot: Jesusu Walks in the Portico of Solomon

Tissot: Jesus Walks in the Portico of Solomon

After we reflect on God as the lover and the most excellent promise the Lord offers, it is appropriate to pause . . . that we might consider what authority supports these concepts.  Several times Paul advises that we test the spirit (Romans 12:2, 2 Corinthians 8:8, 13:5, Galatians 6:4, 1 Thessalonians 5:21) to see that we are acting in accord with God’s will as opposed to having gone off on a private agenda of our own.  We are not testing God in these cases; rather, we examine our own understanding of what we believe to be God’s word to us.

John recommends that we test ourselves: Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone into the world.  (1 John 4:1)

But what we see in today’s reading is not an attempt on the part of the Pharisees and scribes to discover Jesus’ authenticity as the word of God.  What we see is their desire to gain any information that might silence him, any words with which to catch him, to trip him up.

I love the way that Jesus’ replies to their cagey questions . . . with questions of his own that go to the heart of their envy, greed and deception.  He knows that they fear losing temple tax, power and recognition.  Jesus does not answer their questions . . . nor do they persist; because Jesus has made their dark motives evident through his own patient persevering dialog.

We ourselves are sometimes questioned by people who have ulterior motives and so we might think of these interrogations of Christ as his own demonstration of how to handle one’s self when under fire.  This questioning or testing need not be a bad experience . . . if we remember to speak from the truth we have funded in ourselves through our endless search for God.  For when we are questioned, we find; when we are interrogated, we have the opportunity to encounter God.

And so we pray: Heavenly Father, bring us the patience, the wisdom and the serenity to answer the questions put to us from those who test the authority on which we stand.  Help us to test ourselves to see if the spirit we follow is yours.  Help us to seek Christ through scripture and through our daily conversations with you so that we will not be lacking when we are put to the test.  We know that when we empty ourselves of our daily worries, we leave room for you to enter and act. 

When we are anxious, send us your peace.

When we are threatened; send us your peace.

When we are fearful; send us your peace.

When we stand alone; send us your peace.

When we are sorrowful; send us your peace.

When we are abandoned; send us your peace.

When we are questioned; send us your peace.

When we have found you . . . send us your peace . . . that we might recognize you . . . and sink into the serenity you have promised.

Amen. 

A Favorite from February 2, 2009.


Ephesians 1: A Loving, Warrior God

Friday, July 22, 2016ephesians 1

Knowing that spiritual maturity comes with trusting God and following Jesus, we may want to turn to Paul’s letter to the community in Ephesus since this is a letter to a people who wish to be spiritual warriors.  It is a document which outlines how one is to follow a Loving, Warrior God.

When we find ourselves locked in battle with something evil, when we suddenly find that we are in a maze of darkness and deception, when fear grabs hold and there seems to be no method of loosening the grip of the pit that yawns below us . . . we must read the Letter to the Ephesians.

We know that we live in, of and for Christ when lies sting us.

We know that we live in, of and for Christ when deception frightens us.

We know that we live in, of and for Christ when hope is all we need to hang onto.

We know that we live in, of and for Christ when we pray for our enemies.

We know that we live in, of and for Christ when we are speechless in the face of the rejection of all that Christ is.

inchrist_1xAnd when we feel that we must engage the enemy, let us do so as Christ does: with words and gestures of openness and encouragement, with hearts vulnerable yet strong in Christ’s love.  We cannot block out or lock away the people or situations who mock all that Christ stands for; rather, when we become one with him – as his adopted siblings – we learn to extend a welcome to our enemies while at the same time arming ourselves with Christ’s truth, righteousness, faith and Spirit.  Against these there is no bulwark for this is how our God goes into battle:  With open arms, open heart, and a persistent, loving call to goodness.  This is a standard we will want to bear.  This flag of discipleship is one we will want to carry forward.  It is the banner of a Loving, Warrior God who takes no prisoners . . . and who leaves no injustice unanswered.

Adapted from a reflection written in November 17, 2009.


1 Peter 2: Walking in The Way

Thursday, July 21, 2016The-Way-of-Jesus-Spring-20152

The Apostle Peter tells us that we find spiritual maturity when we walk with Christ in The Way he demonstrates to us.

So clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. You’ve had a taste of God. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God.

Peter tells us that we are not the master builder and that we must agree to live side-by-side with other living stones in the kingdom of God.

Present yourselves as building stones for the construction of a sanctuary vibrant with life, in which you’ll serve as holy priests offering Christ-approved lives up to God. 

Peter reminds us that our journey along The Way will not be easy or comfortable.

Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. 

In an age when it seems that the world is coming apart at the seams, Peter describes how we might arrive at spiritual maturity, and how we might make the world a better place in the process.

It is God’s will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you’re a danger to society. 

In a time when it seems that there is no redemption for the world, Peter tells us that in the end, we must place ourselves in God’s hands.

Now you’re named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls.

In the hour when we remain confused and anxious, we place out trust in the hands of the one who knows more than we can know, who abides with deep fidelity, who looks forward in outrageous hope, and who loves with a bottomless love.

For more on Peter’s own journey with Jesus and his life after Jesus’ death and resurrection, spend time with The Acts of the Apostles. 

Compare this translation with The Message by using the scripture link above. 

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