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Posts Tagged ‘discipleship’


Acts 20:25-38Resolutions

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

A 1915 Postcard: New Year’s Resolutions

A new day dawns, a new year begins . . . we have before us a new opportunity for reconnection and rebirth.  In today’s Noontime we examine part of Paul’s farewell speech to the Ephesian elders in Miletus in which he lays out a kind of instruction manual for those whom he has brought into Christ’s infant church . . . and for whom he has great love.

As we begin a new year, we might resolve to take Paul’s admonitions seriously; we might decide to be faithful followers of the Gospel . . . and this may be more difficult than we first think.

I did not shrink from proclaiming to you the entire plan of God . . . As we begin a new year, let us resolve to be fearless in proclaiming the Good News to all we know.  In our secular world it is so easy to say nothing when others rant about how the poor are lazy, about how we need to take back America from the immigrants.  It is easy to remain silent in the face of such anger.  It is convenient to forget that most of us are not descended from indigenous peoples.

I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock . . . As we begin a new year, let us resolve to be both watchful and loving, and let us determine to be in the world but not of it. In a presidential election year it will be easy to join a drumbeat of complaint.  It will be difficult to listen without judging.  It will be awkward to express a view that is contrary to the majority.

Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers . . . As we begin a new year, let us resolve to maintain healthy boundaries as we take care of ourselves even as we tend to the needs of others.  In a self-centered society we will often find ourselves alone when we advocate for the disenfranchised.  We will be at odds with conventional wisdom.  We will run counter to general opinions.  We will struggle with knowing which work is our own and which is not.

Miletus: Agora with public building

Be vigilant and remember that for three years, night and day, I unceasingly admonished each of you with tears . . . As we begin a new year, let us resolve to be prudent and compassionate in all that we do in Jesus’ name.  In a time when a show of emotion is characterized as a weakness we will be against the tide.  In an era when the phrase “personal responsibility” is used to erase God’s call to heal the broken-hearted and help the marginalized, we will stand out as different and even bizarre.  We will be targets for people’s hatred.

In every way I have shown you that by hard work of that sort we must help the weak, and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” . . . As we begin a new year, let us resolve to be determined to live out the Gospel message in our support of the marginalized.  Let us acknowledge that the world will disparage who we are and what we do . . . and that Christ will be working right beside us.

When he had finished speaking he knelt down and prayed with them all . . . As we begin a new year, let us resolve to join others in prayer whenever and wherever possible to unite our voices and hearts in unison with the Creator.  Let us recognize that the work of Christ’s disciples is difficult at best . . . but amazingly rewarding and well worth our personal cost.

Paul reminds the faithful that Christ’s call will run counter to what is comfortable or popular; yet Christ’s message will be wonderfully simple and beautifully plain.  On this New Year’s Day let us remember the gift of Christmas as we resolve to both fashion and fulfill new resolutions that will ask much of us . . . but that will be well worth the sacrifice and even the pain.


A re-post from January 1, 2012.

Images from: http://www.allanbevere.com/2010/10/was-ephesians-circular-letter.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:NewYearsResolution1915FirstPostcard.jpg 

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Mark 12:1-12: Wicked Tenants and Temple Authorities

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

We will find this same story again in Matthew 21 (vv. 33-45) and in Luke 20 (vv. 10-19).  This triple telling is likely an indication that Jesus told this story more than once and that Jesus struck home with his words.  Yesterday’s Noontime asked us to reflect on our stewardship of the gifts God has given to us.  Today we are reminded that our hard work will likely go unrecognized by those around us . . . but this will not matter since it is God’s recognition that matters in the end.  We are also reminded that we can expect our own company of wicked tenants and temple authorities just as Jesus did in his journey to Jerusalem and his final act of sacrifice.

“The parable of the wicked vineyard tenants forms the centerpiece of the Jerusalem ministry.  As an original parable of Jesus, it could express the constant reaching out by the long-suffering God for human response in the face of continued rejection . . . Mark locates this allegory of the rejection of Jesus by the Temple authorities at that point in the Gospel where Jesus, in conflict with Jewish authorities, is pointing to the emergence of the Christian community (the house that will be built on the cornerstone) . . . At the end of the parable, [Jesus’] questioners . . . perceive that the parable is directed against them”.  (Mays 916)

The world is full of “wicked tenants” who envy the good works they see others performing; and the world has many “temple authorities” who seek to control each breath others take.  We will not want to be caught up in the perverse envy and vicious greed we see in this story Jesus tells us so well; rather, we will want to prepare ourselves for the newness that is born out of the pain of rejection, for the hope Jesus brings out of the heartache of denial.  While our eyes are riveted on the loss of the vineyard, the death of loyal servants and a faithful son, Jesus focuses on the new disciples who will answer his call . . . and on the new life of a promising community.

We ought not fear the wicked tenants and temple authorities we encounter every day.  Instead, let us rejoice that we nestle side by side with a cornerstone that has been rejected for it is this rejection that we find a most meaningful life . . . a life promised by God, a life nurtured by the Spirit, a life shown to us by our brother, Jesus.


A re-post from November 15, 2011.

Images from: http://pastorgregumc.wordpress.com/2011/05/23/got-milk-1-peter-22-10/

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 1203. Print.

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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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