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Archive for April, 2016


John 13:31-35: Loving Judas

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Caravaggio: The Taking of Jesus Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss

Caravaggio: The Taking of Jesus
Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss

We have reflected on seeking, finding and recognizing Jesus. We have thought about Jesus as God’s Word in human form among us.  We have explored what God must mean when coming to live with us and one of us and we have been incredulous as we see how God, through Jesus, converts the impossible to the possible. Perhaps we remain incredulous. Today we see Jesus act in a most challenging way . . .

When Judas had left them, Jesus said . . .

We cannot escape betrayal, abandonment, deception or chaos. These disruptive forces must be seen for what they are. When in doubt we might follow Jesus, the one who knows both pain and joy, corruption and peace.

Children, I am with you for only a short time longer. You are going to look high and low for me. But just as I told the Jews, I’m telling you: Where I go, you are not able to come.

Jesus does not stop Judas from reporting his whereabouts to the authorities. Instead, he prepares those who love him. When confronted with our own Judas, we might follow Jesus, the one who knows both sorrow and rejoicing, evil and mercy.

Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.

Jesus does not stop us from doing evil. Rather, he calls us to his side, to accompany him as a child follows a loving parent. When lost in our world of ego and self-orientation, we might follow Jesus, the one who knows both cruelty and kindness, hate and love.

When we suffer at the hands of Judas, let us remember to follow Jesus in love.

Compare differing versions of these verses today, and allow God’s Word to bring reconciliation so that we might better love the Judas in our lives. Or enter the words Judas or betrayal into the blog search bar and explore. 

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John 12:37-41: Incredulity

Friday, April 29, 2016he is risen

“John gives a historical explanation of the disbelief of the Jewish people, not a psychological one.  The Old Testament has to be fulfilled; the disbelief that met Isaiah’s message was a foreshadowing of the disbelief that Jesus encountered”.  NAB cf. page 170

It is always about the conversion of the heart, the transformation of the mind.  Seeing with our eyes and hearing with our ears does not bring us closer to God.  Experiencing the world with our hearts . . . this is what calls us into a state of permanent discipleship. 

Human nature being what it is, we find myriad excuses and reasons for not doing the work of discipleship.  The eye and the ear bring us sight and sound which we are accustomed to reasoning away with lines of thought we are practiced in using.  What good can one person do?  This is what people in my neighborhood do and I do not want to offend them.  This way is more convenient for me.  That has no effect upon me.  I like to shop there.  It’s none of my business.  It’s not hurting anybody.  These are the phrases that trip off our lips easily.

Even Jesus with the fullness of the presence of God was not able to turn all hearts and minds to himself and The Way.  He lived and worked and played among an incredulous people hardened by the tortures of the world.  Even some of those among whom he prayed did not believe . . . and this was after seeing with the eye and hearing with the ear.  In John 20:29 Jesus tells his disciples that those who believe without seeing or hearing are blessed indeed.

And so we have this to ponder.  As Jesus passes among us each day, how do we respond?  Are we the incredulous comfortable crowd?  Or are we the restless, open listeners . . . waiting for The Word?

A Favorite from September 1, 2008.

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John 20:1-10: The Impossible as Reality

Thursday, April 28, 2016Abundant-Life

 A Favorite from May 5, 2008.

 For some reason this chapter has popped up at Noontime several times.  Today, as always when this happens, we can look more closely at this reading . . . and this is what comes to me.

Today’s morning scripture reading is from Hebrews.

Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.  Because of it the ancients were well attested.  11:1-2

I have often tried to imagine the rainbow of emotions which swept through Mary, Peter and John when they saw the empty tomb.  There were so many explanations of what might have happened.

This is the time of year in which we always re-live the Resurrection story.  Two thousand years after the fact, we are still experiencing the mix of doubt, fear, hope and joy which swept through the early apostolic band.  They had been accompanied by Jesus in life . . . now they would be accompanied by him and the Spirit . . . for eternity.

We are surprised by the absence of something we thought existed . . . someone who once was a foundation . . . some idea that gave us meaning.  We see, hear and feel the emptiness and sorrow of that loss.  Slowly, and painfully, we explore the possibilities.  Little by little we come to the realization that our existence is paradox.  We are divine, we are human . . . we are human, we are divine.

jesus is risenWe are slow to believe . . . we see the empty tomb . . . we know that our eyes do not deceive . . . we can imagine the possibilities . . . and we dare to hope . . . we dare to dream . . . we dare to live in a way we have never lived before.  The impossible becomes reality.

 

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John 1:1-5: The Word


John 1:1-5The Word

Wednesday, April 27, 2016Jesus-and-the-Bible

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

I am always inspired by this beautiful anthem . . . and no wonder.  It says all there is to say.

He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.

God created us to be with him. God loves us deeply, dearly, passionately, intimately. God speaks to us . . . but we sometimes have difficulty understanding the words .

In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 

And so God sent The Word, His Word, The Only Word . . . to move, and live, and suffer and rejoice among us. And when this Living Word left us, God’s Spirit returned to dwell with us forever . . . to help us to understand the words that God speaks to us constantly.

The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

We are driven into the desert to meet the tempter.  And the Word is there. We confront ourselves each day.  And the Word is also there. We are free to choose to listen for and comprehend the Word given to us through Jesus, spoken to us by the Spirit. We are free to join our God and together make all things new, to experience God’s saving and loving Word.

Adapted from a Favorite written on April 1, 2008. 

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John 6:41-42: Recognizing Jesus

Tuesday, April 26, 2016bread of life

Jesus has walked on the surface of the water to save those who love him from wilds winds and high seas. His followers were terrified and so he brings the boat immediately to the point on the shore where they had been aiming – despite the fact that the fishermen had rowed three or four miles from the coast. Just so are we terrified when tossed by life. Just so are we brought to our goal. Just so are we loved by Christ.

Jesus pauses to dialog with the enormous crowd that follows him – despite the fact that they do not believe him. Just so do we seek Jesus. Just so do we find him. Just so we doubt the very love that has rescued us.

Today we see how those who have struggled to follow and those who have argued still do not understand the beautiful gift Jesus hands them, the gift of bread that feeds eternally, the gift of bread from heaven. Just so do they take Jesus literally. Just so do they doubt the miracle before them. Just do we look past the evidence of healing and love that stands before us. Just so . . .

At this, because Jesus said, “I am the Bread that came down from heaven,” the Jews started arguing over him: “Isn’t this the son of Joseph? Don’t we know his father? Don’t we know his mother? How can he now say, ‘I came down out of heaven’ and expect anyone to believe him?”

We have watched Jesus walking on water toward us. Do we still doubt?

We have raced after Jesus, doing all we can to capture this essence of peace and serenity. Do we still persist?

We have found Jesus in the most unsuspecting places – with the homeless, with the poor, among the refugees, the abandoned and alone. Do we still fail to recognize God among us?

Enter the words Bread of Life into the blog search bar and reflect on our own doubt and persistence, understanding and peace.

Tomorrow, bickering.

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John 6:25-58: Finding Jesus

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Last Supper Jesus breaks the bread.

We wonder what it would be like to have a conversation with Jesus the man. We imagine what we might ask and what he might answer. Today we have the opportunity to explore just such a dialog when we look at the words of those who were intent on finding Jesus.

We can use the scripture link to read the people’s dialog with Jesus; and we can reflect on our own responses. Jesus’ words are taken from THE MESSAGE translation of the Bible. We follow the links to read the peoples’ words, and then we insert our own . . .

They were seeking Jesus and caught up with him to ask questions.

Jesus said: Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food . . . Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last.

They said (verse 28) . . . and we say . . . 

Jesus said: Throw your lot in with the One that God has sent. That kind of a commitment gets you in on God’s works.

They waffled (verses 30-31) . . . and we doubt . . .

Jesus said: The real significance of that Scripture [of Moses feeding the people in the desert with manna] is not that Moses gave you bread from heaven but that my Father is right now offering you bread from heaven, the real bread. The Bread of God came down out of heaven and is giving life to the world.

They jumped at that (verse 34) . . . and we exclaim . . . 

Jesus said: I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever. I have told you this explicitly because even though you have seen me in action, you don’t really believe me. 

They started arguing (verses 41-42) . . . and we also argue . . . 

Jesus said: Don’t bicker among yourselves over me. You’re not in charge here.

They started fighting among themselves (verse 52) . . . and we dispute . . . 

Then Jesus said . . . We discover how well we have found Jesus when we read verses 53-58 for his’ final words to those who question him, his words to us today.

Tomorrow, more complaint.

 

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John 6:22-24: Seeking Jesus

Fifth Sunday of Easter, April 24, 2016ps_34_10

We must always be prepared for the surprise of God’s goodness when tragedy encircles us. We must always be open to God’s gift of healing when trauma haunts us. We must always be willing to accept God’s gift of mercy when anxiety overtakes us. We must always be seeking a more intimate relationship with God, for this is what God seeks in us.

Yesterday we reflected On John 6 with Henry Tanner’s painting The Disciples See Christ Walking on the Water. Today we reflect on the verses that follow that story, and we watch as those who seek Jesus use any available means to pursue the healing, prophetic presence of God among them. We explore the depth of our relationship with God, the breadth of our love for God, and the infinity of peace that comes with our seeking.

18cloudcult091010A Krista Tippet interview with Craig Minowa and the band Cloud Cult explores how we seek, what we seek, and how this seeking affects us. To listen to the podcast, visit the On Being site: http://www.onbeing.org/program/craig-minowa-music-and-the-ritual-of-performance/8584

For an NPR story on Minowa and Cloud Cult, visit: http://www.npr.org/2013/03/06/173518074/cloud-cults-love-channels-a-life-tested-by-loss

Tomorrow, Eucharist.

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John 6:16-21Walking on Water – A Reprise

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Henry Ossawa Tanner: The Disciples See Christ Walking on the Water

Henry Ossawa Tanner: The Disciples See Christ Walking on the Water

 A Favorite from May 23, 2008.

Back in January we looked at chapter 6 of John and reflected on his Bread of Life Discourse.  Today we are drawn back to this chapter, but now to the incident that is sandwiched between the act of the multiplication of the loaves and Jesus’ explanation of the Eucharist . . . Jesus walks on the water.

I am thinking of a painting I saw by Henry Tanner when it was on exhibit at the BMA . . . and I go in search of it.  The waters in this painting are calm, one the apostles stands toward the front of the boat . . . Jesus approaches from the left.

The painting is ethereal, with wisping stokes that evoke the spiritual experience these men are having.  They have witnessed the miraculous multiplication of bread yet do not see.  They will hear the explication of this miracle but will not fully understand.  They are fishing alone when the storm rises up and they fear for their lives . . . then they see Jesus walking toward them.

It is I.  Do not be afraid.

 Life has a way of pulling us into a vortex of activity without suggesting to us that we ought to reflect on our actions.  Storms rise suddenly, our little fishing boats are swamped . . . and a figure fluoresces just outside the periphery of our vision.  We turn to focus on it but we cannot see anything which we can readily identify . . . and so we go back to bailing.  I am wondering what might happen if we calm our fears and linger a bit with that fluorescence.  Would it come into a crisp image that might register on the retina long enough for us to believe?

It is I.  Do not be afraid.

Life has a way of making us feel as though everything is urgent, must be done by Friday, Monday, Tuesday.  Deadlines loom, our agenda overflows . . . and something beckons just off behind our shoulder.  We pause to listen to the faint humming, to wonder what it might be . . . we hear nothing that the ear recognizes . . . and we go back to phone calls, emails, messages that pile up on the desk.

It is I.  Do not be afraid.

We are afraid that the work will not be done, that the children will not be fed, that the gift will not be bought, the grass not mown, the laundry not washed.  We have an idea that time is linear, finite and within our control.

It is I.  Do not be afraid.

Jesus knows no time.  Jesus is.  Jesus was.  Jesus will be.  In the midst of our bailing, our counting, our working . . . we must pause to look and to listen.  We want to have ears that truly hear, eyes that truly see . . . because . . .

It is I.  Do not be afraid.

Tomorrow, seeking Jesus. 

For more on Henry Tanner, visit: http://www.britannica.com/biography/Henry-Ossawa-Tanner 

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Joshua 3: Crossing the Jordan

Friday, April 22, 2016stones-stack-940x3601

Each time we must embark on an essential task which appears to be impossible, we ought to read this book of how a determined band of faith-filled people were able to accomplish something which appeared to be impossible . . . but only impossible in human terms . . . for with God, all things are possible.

This chapter follows on the heels of the story of how Joshua and his fellow-spies were saved by Rahab, the woman who runs a brothel perched higher than the city wall.  Footnotes tell us some interesting details about this woman whom the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews praises.  Details like these allow us to remember that God uses many ways to gain the ends he seeks, and God does not allow discontinuity or aberrations to interfere with the end goal of bringing the kingdom to fruition.  And this is good news for all of us for when we read Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1, we read a litany of saints and sinners.  We are all members of Christ’s family.  We are his adopted sisters and brothers.  And as a community, we are his bride, invited to cross the Jordan in our journey home.

There are many river crossings for us to make. There are many currents that want to rip us away into an overwhelming tide.  There are many boulders hidden under the rippling water that have slippery surfaces and sharp edges.  The river is a beautiful life-giving place; yet it is full of danger.  The Hebrews carried their God in an Ark they had fashioned carefully of gold.  This Ark held the presence of Yahweh – desert manna, stone tablets of The Law, and Aaron’s rod.  This Ark was later replaced by the Blessed Mother who bore the incarnation of God to the world.  This Ark must now be the temple place we prepare in our hearts where Yahweh may dwell in each of us.  This is the Ark that we now take up as we wade into the swirling depths of life.

What does our Ark contain?  Have we made it with loving care?  When we lift the lid, what do we see?  Superficial lives or faithful service?  Hollow hearts of false oaths or full ones yearning to share what we experience?  Is the tablet still of stone or have we allowed God to write his promise on our hearts?  Do we see the Law of Self or the Law of Love?

If we are to reach the opposite shore of the river, we might want to unpack and re-pack the ark of our lives before we step into the eddying water.  Perhaps we will leave something behind.  Perhaps we will go in search of something we know we ought to have.  How do we know what to take with us?  It is simple.  We must ask and answer this question: When we open this ark before God, our creator, will we find an image of God?  Will God smile with the love of a parent who sees work well done by the child?

Before we step into the Jordan of our lives, let us think about the contents of the ark we carry on our shoulders and if we must . . . let us with honesty . . .  unpack and re-pack the contents of our lives.

Adapted from a favorite from May 26, 2008.

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