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Posts Tagged ‘discipleship’


John 21:1-14: It Was Already Dawn

Friday, April 13, 2018

James Tissot: Jesus Appears on the Shore

In this second week of Eastertide, we continue to find new life in the Easter miracle of our resurrection as we re-visit the Gospel readings for the Easter Octave. Today we return to the Sea of Tiberius with Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John and two other disciples. Discouraged, frightened, needing employment, or wanting to go back to familiar rhythms and themes of life . . . we do not know why these followers return to the waters of Galilee. But we do know that this is where they encounter the risen Christ. It was already dawn, John tells us.

This imagery reminds us that when we believe our night of suffering and striving is endless, we – like these disciples – will look up from draining work to discover that it is already dawn. Perhaps we – like these disciples – meet Jesus when we are at our lowest. Perhaps we are the two unnamed disciples who take up nets and oars with our comrades to shove out into deep waters to see how we might survive. Perhaps we believe our lives have brought us disappointment again. First, there was the death of Jesus, and now we have been fishing through the night yet have caught nothing.  Unexpectedly, a stranger calls out to us from the shoreline, urging us to cast our nets once more . . . but on the starboard side of the boat.

This is how it happened . . . When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. (NABRE)

How could this possibly matter, we wonder? What difference can it make to change the side of the boat? We have strained ourselves to the limit and we have no more strength.

They did what he said. All of a sudden there were so many fish in it, they weren’t strong enough to pull it in. (MSG)

With this, Peter leaps from the boat and we question his actions as he flails his way to the shoreline; yet it is there – when the dawn is upon us – we realize that Christ has been with us all along.

When they climbed out on shore, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.”  (NABRE)

We see that Jesus is already baking fish on the open fire, but we add our own fish from the new catch, finally understanding that we are to join Christ in his work. A memory flickers through our minds of the 3 fish and 5 loaves that Jesus divided so that five thousand might eat. And as we settle around the warmth of the fire to take in this meal, we realize our work, we hear Christ’s call. Despite our discomfort with the unfamiliar, we know that we must return to Jerusalem to continue the discipleship Jesus has begun in us.

Regardless of our fatigue, we lean into our nets again. In spite of deep waters and dark nights, we leap from our small boat to thrash ashore so that we might share a meal with Christ. Although we have thought our suffering and fears went unnoticed, Christ has been with us, waiting with baked fish and bread to erase our exhaustion and nourish our hope. And suddenly the night slips away . . . . almost without our noticing . . . for it is already dawn.


When we compare other translations with the ones in this post, we begin to understand that despite the length of the night and the frustration of the work, Christ invites us to join him in our own renewal.

To read Matthew’s accounting of how Jesus feeds 5000, read Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:31-34, Luke 9:12-17 or John 6:1-14. Matthew (15:32-39) and Mark (8:1-9) also describe the feeding of 4000. 

Images from: https://www.dominicanajournal.org/burning-coals-for-breakfast/ and https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/photo/cooking-steckerlfisch-over-an-open-fire-high-res-stock-photography/56298235

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Isaiah 22:15-25: Denunciation

Domenico Fetti: The Parable of the Mote and the Beam

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Adapted from a Favorite written on September 11, 2009.

At times we are called to rebuke one another.  At times we are rebuked by our sisters and brothers.  Most of us steer clear of conflict when we can.  Some of us relish conflict; it gives us a place to hide from our own troubles.  Others do not like conflict but engage in it when they feel they must, answering God’s calls to a particular place or person.  Today we read about people being denounced for their dishonesty.  This is a familiar portion of Isaiah often referenced as Jesus gathers the lost sheep lead astray by corrupt leaders.

There is a huge difference between self-examination and seeking self.  In today’s Gospel Jesus makes this clear to us as he tells the parable of the blind leading the blind.  In this story he asks us to look at the splinter of wood in our neighbor’s eye after we remove the beam from our own (Luke 6:39-42).  He calls us to the difficult task of opening our hearts for healing, of making ourselves available for discipleship, of looking out for the common good before our own.

We always seem to forget that we need not fuss about all that is around us when we first make room in each day for Christ to enter into our thoughts and actions.  Some of us, because we put the world first, are like pegs fastened in secure places but still are cut down and perish.  We believe we have everything in place to ensure our happiness at the expense of others yet even as we close ourselves off to hoard our dreams, we set ourselves up for denunciation.  When we enter into or avoid conflict based on our own comfort levels, we set ourselves up for denunciation.  When we begin and end each day without Christ, we set ourselves up for denunciation.  When we make each day’s journey without dedicating all we do to Christ, we set ourselves up for denunciation

So rather than seek our own ease, rather than look at other people’s splinters, we must look to our perspectives, motivations and actions.  These beams we remove from our own eyes will tell us if we are setting ourselves up for denunciation.  And after reading Isaiah, this is an understanding we will want to gain. It is action we will want to take. It is love we will want to share.

Image from: https://www.thecatholicthing.org/2017/08/03/splinters-beams-and-clear-sight%E2%80%A8%E2%80%A8/

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

6648f45035a47efdafeee4d3f3f056e4_XL[1]Nehemiah 13

A Prayer for Willingness

True hope differs from waiting in that it expects the impossible to become possible through our petition and in God’s action.  Today we might reflect on a mirror image to hope and conversion that we pondered yesterday: the juxtaposition of willingness and desire.  It is this willingness – rather than our desire – that refines us as faithful.  It is this willingness – and not mere desire – that marks us as God’s disciples.

But what might we gain, we ask ourselves, from being willing rather than willful?

Perhaps it is our willingness that God nurtures patiently, waiting for our readiness to participate fully in God through Christ.  Perhaps it is this measure of willingness that indicates our full and ready understanding of who God is and why we are created in God’s image.   Perhaps is it our willingness to withstand any difficulty, our determination to be disciples of Christ that signals our preparedness to believe that God can truly make all things possible.  Do we desire to be with God but try to avoid all obstacles in our journey?  Or are we willing to travel the road, despite its roadblocks, in full willingness?

As we read about Nehemiah warning against stepping into alien and pagan territory and relationships, we might remember the Good Samaritan parable told by Jesus.  A man from Samaria, considered to be an outcast by the Jewish community, helps an injured traveler on the road to Jerusalem while the Levite, one who has special status in the Jewish community, keeps himself separate and pure.  As we mature from our Old Testament self who seeks to merely understand God and enter into our New Testament self to seek union with God we leave our desire behind . . . and we enter into willingness

We fully experience God’s presence when we give over our human desire of wishing for the end result through expedient or easy means, when we surrender our willfulness in order to become willing. But for this we need courage.

We genuinely live as God’s disciples when we cease asking for the easy route that has no brambles or pitfalls, when we take on the divine mantle of succumbing to the arduous journey of true willingness.  But for this we need strength.

And so we pray . . .

Dear and gracious God,

We hope to rest constantly in you; grant us your readiness.

We desire to follow faithfully the way of Christ; grant us your eagerness.

We expect to hurdle all obstacles that would keep us from you; grant us your strength.

We hope to respond willingly to your call no matter how difficult the journey; grant us your courage.

We ask that you hold us close to you. 

We ask that you keep us forever with you. 

We ask that you grace us with your willingness.

We ask this in Christ’s name, in unity with the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

For more information about the contrast of willingness and willfulness, click on the image above or go to the 21 February 2013 Brookhaven Retreat blog post at:  http://www.brookhavenretreat.com/cms/blog-22/item/845-willful-or-willing

Adapted from a reflection written on July 21, 2009, and posted on May 9, 2013. 

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Isaiah 11: The Rule

Friday, September 15, 2017

A Favorite from February 28, 2010.

We often consider what passion we might need to live as disciples of Christ.  Today we look at the rules by which we must learn to live.

Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, but he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. 

If we wish to be part of kingdom building, we must learn to look past appearances; we must not make decisions based on hearsay.

Justice shall be the band about his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.

If we wish to part of kingdom building, we must learn – as Paul tells us in Ephesians 6 – that the only armor we need is Christ.

He shall raise a signal to the nations and gather the outcasts of Israel; the dispersed of Judah he shall assemble from the four corners of the earth.

If we wish to be a part of kingdom building, we must wait for the signal, and we must be able to recognize the Shepherd as John tells us in Chapter 10 of his Gospel.

The envy of Ephraim shall pass away and the rivalry of Judah shall be removed; Ephraim shall not be jealous of Judah, and Judah shall not be hostile to Ephraim.

If we wish to be part of kingdom building, we must learn to put aside envy; we must learn that God calls for unity and not rivalry.

The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord. 

If we wish to be part of kingdom building, we must learn to delight in wisdom, to listen for God’s counsel, to draw from God’s strength, and to love the Lord our God more than life itself.  This fear, this awe, this love will be all we need to carry us through any adversity we face.

If we wish to be part of kingdom building, we must take all of this in . . . and we must make the Rule part of our fiber and tissue, our heart and soul.

For more reflections on how God’s love manifests itself in our lives, enter  the words The Law into the blog search bar and explore. 

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1 Timothy 1:8-10: Hardship for the Gospelmainslide-come-and-see

Second Sunday of Lent, March 12, 2017

There are many days in our lives when we are too exhausted to hear that discipleship is difficult. We want to hear that someone sees our plight, that we are standing on firm ground, and that help is at hand. This is what Timothy tells us today. There is a source of renewal and strength, and this source is God.

Beloved: bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.

There is one who knows the mountains and valleys of our lives, and this one is the Creator. There is one who walks through pain and joy with us, and this one is Christ Jesus. There is one who lives in despair and hope with us, and this one is the Spirit.

God saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to God’s own design and the grace bestowed on us in Chris Jesus before time began, but now made manifest through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus, who destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

God says: I see that you are frightened and cannot see how you can possibly survive your present circumstances; but I assure you that the difficulties you encounter are opportunities for you to work with me. The anxiety and fear you experience are windows of grace for you. And the fear and despair you feel are part of the holy design in which you are taking part. Always remember that you are special to me. You are the apple of my eye, the center of my essence. I will go to the furthest length and the deepest depth to redeem and save you. The hardship you suffer now reflects the grace and joy I find in your persistence in following me. I will never forget you. I will love you always.

As part of our Lenten commitment to follow Christ’s lead, we spend time with this Scripture today and we discover that much greater than our works is the grace of God. Much greater than the hardship we suffer, are the loving heart and hands of God.

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Psalm 112: Rising in the Darkness

Monday, February 13, 2017candles

Whether we know it or, once we commit to loving God as we see God in others, we begin to generate light in the darkness.

Those who love the LORD rise in the darkness as a light for the upright; they are gracious, merciful, and righteous.

We may be unaware that others are watching us but they are. When we say that are committed to Christ, do our actions betray or support our words?

It is well with those who deal generously and lend, who conduct their affairs with justice.

If we hope to make a mark in human history, all we need do is follow Christ. In this way we will find ourselves in the story of hope and generosity rather than the story of fear and exclusion.

For the righteous will never be moved; they will be remembered forever.

Once we begin to think and move in Christ, all fear falls away for we know that we are not in charge and that the long arc of human history is moving toward the light of Christ.

They are not afraid of evil tidings; their hearts are firm, secure in the Lord.

lightWhen we feel ourselves moving in that great tide of humanity that yearns for universal justice, impartial freedom and eternal peace, we will know that all is well.

Their hearts are steady, they will not be afraid; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.

The honor we seek is not the reward of this life; it is the quiet, humble, everlasting honor that Christ bestows when we follow after him.

They have distributed freely, they have given to the poor; their righteousness endures forever; they are exalted in honor.

We cannot think that our progress is smooth for the way of discipleship is difficult in the best of circumstances.

The wicked see it and are angry; they gnash their teeth and melt away; the desire of the wicked comes to nothing.

And we must remember that in our gladness of living and loving in Christ, we are called to invite all those who weary from their journey of opposition, mistrust, and manipulation to join in this great generation of life and light and love.

Those who love the LORD rise in the darkness as a light for the upright; they are gracious, merciful, and righteous.

candles-burningWe give thanks for the times when are the light. We ask forgiveness for the times we have brought darkness to others and ourselves. And we remember to look for the face of Christ in every soul that passes our way.

When we spend time with various translations of this psalm, we find that our hearts are lighter, our path more easily seen and trod, and our journey more full of peace.

 

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Job 6The Reply of the Innocent

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A Favorite from September 6, 2009.job-innocent-suffering-300x225

It is true that sometimes we are completely innocent of any wrongdoing and yet we suffer.  One of the primary questions we ask as human beings is this:  Why is it that things sometimes go so wrong for us and so right for others?  We also ask: What have we done to deserve suffering and how do we cope without falling apart entirely?  Some of us even ask: How long can I go on?  Is life worth living?

Today we hear from Job, the man who suffers through no fault of his own.  His fidelity attracts Satan’s notice and so he becomes an object of play in the devil’s evil game.  Job describes with beautiful metaphors how quickly his friends abandon him, being undependable as a brook, as watercourses that run dry in wadies . . . [they are] caravans [that] turn aside from their routes [to] go into the desert and perish. 

In today’s Gospel (Mark 7:31-37) we hear the story of how Jesus opens ears and a throat when he says words that he also says to us: Be open!  In MAGNIFICAT, the mini-reflection for Morning Prayer reads: Jesus opened the ear of the deaf man that he might hear in a new startling way the word of salvation.  What we hear as good news, we proclaim as good news: that is our task as disciples.

How we arrive at not hearing is not important; nor is the question about why we have become silent in our isolation.  What is important is this: That one has come who releases all of us from our bondage – whether these chains have been acquired through our own action or inaction, or whether we are innocent slaves.  One has come to call us to unity, and this one calls to each of us: Be open!

Be open to a surprising newness.  Be open to pardoning and being pardoned.  Be open to miracles in our lives.  Be open to the amazing potential we possess.  Be open to proclaiming the good news that we are free and need not toil futilely.  Be open to the life of discipleship.  Be open to union in Christ, with Christ himself.  Be open . . .

This is easy to hear but difficult to do.  We might turn again to Job who knows the pain of separation . . . and also the joy of reunion.

Whether we suffer in innocence or through our own action or inaction, our reply to the one who created us can be the same.  When we hear the voice that calls, let us all answer:  We are open to the possibility that we might live again!  This is our best human reply to the divine.

And this is the greatest miracle of all . . . that whether we suffer through guilt or whether we are innocent . . . we can all be open to God . . . for we are all sought by God for to each of us he says: Be open!

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 6.9 (2009). Print.  

Click on the image above for more on the suffering of the innocent, or visit: http://www.thelakesanglican.org.au/why-does-god-allow-suffering/ 

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Matthew 9:27-31: The Blind

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Jesus: St. Saviour Church - Turkey

Jesus icon in St. Saviour Church: Chora, Istanbul, Turkey

The stories of Jesus’ healing are perhaps the most loved. They tell us in the modern era what we want and need to hear. Miracles happen. Outrageous hope is possible. Love changes everything. Faith, the cornerstone of discipleship, rises from our constant communication with God and brings reward greater than any power, wealth or fame. But to all of this goodness and compassion too many of us are too often blinded by the lures of the world that surrounds us. So great is God’s love for each of us that we are given the daily opportunity to choose Mammon or God. The blind men in today’s story choose God.

THE MESSAGE translation brings this familiar story home in a powerful way.

Two men cry follow Jesus and cry out to him, pleading for sight so they might more fully enter life. And so Jesus said to them, “Do you really believe I can do this?” They said, “Why, yes, Master!”

How often do we ask for God’s help? How often do we reply, “Why, yes, Master!”

St. Saviour Church - Chora, Istanbul, Turkey: Jesus heals Two Blind Men

St. Saviour Church: Jesus heals Two Blind Men

He touched their eyes and said, “Become what you believe.” It happened. They saw. Then Jesus became very stern. “Don’t let a soul know how this happened.” But they were hardly out the door before they started blabbing it to everyone they met.

Do we believe that we become what we believe? Do we covet what others have or what others are?

It happened. They saw.

Does our worldly doubt overcome our spirit’s hope? Do we turn to God when we are in turmoil or fear? Do we blab the good news to others or hold it for ourselves? Do we ask for sight and wisdom only to ignore or abuse the gift once it is given? Do we decide that Jesus’ ancient words do not suit our modern world?

Become what you believe.

St. Saviour Church in Chora, Istanbul, Turkey

St. Saviour Church in Chora, Istanbul, Turkey

We are so often blind to so much that takes place around us and this is not surprising since the world is a dichotomy of faith-inspiring creation and the frightening ugliness of evil. But we are created in God’s image, created to rise to the hope of God’s creation, created to sing in harmony with God’s Spirit. So rather than reject with cynicism the possibility of Jesus’ presence in our lives, let us share – as do these two cured men – the goodness and enormity of God’s love. When we find that we are blind . . . let us ask for Jesus’ healing . . . and let us celebrate the miracle of his love.

The image above is not the clearest but there are a number of lovely photographs in this post on the ParMieux Adventures blog at: http://parmieuxadventures.blogspot.com/2010/12/st-saviour-in-chora.html 

To learn more about this church, visit the Kiriye Camii (St. Saviour) page on the Sacred Destinations site: http://www.sacred-destinations.com/turkey/istanbul-st-savior-in-chora-kariye 

Compare THE MESSAGE translation of these verses with others using the scripture link and the drop-down menus to see how Jesus speaks to us today through this story.

Tomorrow, why does Jesus ask these men to keep silent about the miracle of their healing.

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Luke 14:25-33: Discipleship

Tuesday, May 17, 2016Grow.-Plant.-Discipleship

If we ever forget what it means to be a disciple, here is a quick summary; and some of these sayings are difficult to take.

Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one’s own self!—can’t be my disciple. Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple.
\We can see that following the Master means that God must be before all else, even our most intimate and longest relationships.  I do not believe that Jesus is telling us that family is not important.  I do not believe that we are to reject family and friends in order to be a good disciple.  I do believe that if we must choose to pretend that all is well in an intimate relationship when it is not, then we must do what we know to be correct.  We must exit this relationship but (and this is the hard part) we must continue to leave ourselves open to the possibility that the abusive people in our lives will transform.

Or can you imagine a king going into battle against another king without first deciding whether it is possible with his ten thousand troops to face the twenty thousand troops of the other? And if he decides he can’t, won’t he send an emissary and work out a truce?

We must pray that the impossible people and situations in our lives become temples for the Indwelling of the Spirit.  We must pray that those who have abused us will find a softening in their hearts and an unbending in their necks.  We may not walk away completely and cleanly, because Jesus does not walk away completely.

Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish. 

What we reflect on here is this: in the calculus for building a good and holy temple we must not only plan for the solid foundation and protective walls, but the windows and doors which let in the light, the voice of God as it travels on the wind, and the people who come and go in our lives.  We must allow for both solitude and community, justice and compassion. This is the Way of Discipleship.

Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple.

DiscipleshipWe do not travel this way alone.  As we peel away those people and influences which lead us astray rather than toward God, we look for fellow travelers of The Way.  Yet even these friendships cannot come between ourselves and the one who created us.  And even though we will always need one another’s help in remaining open to the resolution of the impossible people and situations, it is God who acts and moves in these fellow pilgrims to bring us pockets of consolation and refuge.  As long as we place God before us each day, we will have a true path.  As long as we abide by the Law of Love, we will know which way is the true way.  This we need not doubt.

Each day, in each prayer we ask that God make us good and loyal servants.  Each day, in each prayer we ask that God continue to show us the Way of discipleship.

This is the cost of discipleship. We do this in Jesus’ name. This is the cost of kingdom-building. We do this with and in the Creator. This is the cost of living in love. We do this through the transformative healing of the Holy Spirit. We will want to figure the cost of this way of life. Let us consider it well.  Amen.

Adapted from a favorite from May 12, 2008.

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