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Posts Tagged ‘discipleship’


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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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 12:37-41: Incredulity

Saturday, November 21, 2015heart-of-leaf-with-roses

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 countless 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.
eye has not seenPaul reminds the Corinthians and he also reminds us that no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9We depend on our human resources far too much and far too often, and these eyes and ears and hearts are often incredulous when we begin to consider all that God has in store for us.

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?

 

Adapted from a favorite written on September 1, 2008.

 

 

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James 2:19-20: Faith and Wisdom – Part II

Sunday, October 11, 2015the-finance-bar-office-photographs--216_custom-36360f16815c83176350d0e82bc5c5c22aec4316-s800-c85

Yesterday we heard James’ description of true discipleship in Christ. Faith alone or works alone do not put us on the disciple’s path. Today James suggests that a lack of true wisdom can send us astray, can allow us to respond to the kind of thinking that tears down true faith and whittles away at true wisdom.

Do I hear you professing to believe in the one and only God, but then observe you complacently sitting back as if you had done something wonderful? That’s just great. Demons do that, but what good does it do them? Use your heads! Do you suppose for a minute that you can cut faith and works in two and not end up with a corpse on your hands?

Spend a few minutes today with this brief podcast from NPR that describes how Marsha Barnes has put her faith and works together in true wisdom. The three and a half minutes are well worth our time. Click on the image above to find the interview or go to: http://www.npr.org/2015/10/04/445595860/got-a-personal-finance-question-dont-miss-the-bus

Tomorrow, James gives us concrete examples of those who walk and live in wisdom and faith . . . through their works in discipleship.

 

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James 2:14-18: Faith and Wisdom – Part I

Saturday, October 10, 2015faith-pray-wisdom-faith-quotes

Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it?

James continues to pound away at our self-satisfaction and comfort, particularly when we convince ourselves that our words alone are enough to indicate our willingness to follow Christ. James tells us a story by way of example on the chance that we miss his meaning.

For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

God-talk and God-acts. Is one sufficient without the other? Is it possible to have faith without true wisdom or wisdom without acts of faith? James continues.

I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, “Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I’ll handle the works department.” Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.

Use the scripture link to compare other versions to these verses from THE MESSAGE. Let us listen for God’s wisdom and be moved to act in our faith.

Tomorrow, what do faith and wisdom in union look like?

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Mark 4:1-25: The Parable of the Sowergoodsoillogo

Friday, September 11, 2015

This is a familiar story we frequently hear. The other synoptic (meaning “seen as one”) gospels of Matthew and Luke have this same parable with little variations. Matthew also tells of the farmer who sows wheat in the day time but then an evil person sows weeds at night in the same field. When the workers want to pull the weeds, the owner says no; he knows that they may also pull up the wheat. The weed in this story is most likely the darnel plant that looks exactly like wheat until it matures. The allegory, therefore, is that we should not judge who is wheat and who is weed in our own little fields because we all look alike until the end of the journey. And only God can discern which is which – who is who.

Our scripture group recently shared ideas about how we each are a type of seed. We lack understanding when we allow “the evil one” to steal us away from God (the seed on the path). We allow persecution and tribulation to wear us down (the seed on the rocks). We allow our worldly goods and worries to separate us from God (the seed in the thorns). We all hope to be seed with a proper disposition – the seed which falls on fertile soil; yet we cannot tell who is who.

We also spoke of the ancient custom of plowing after sowing – so once the seed is disbursed it has to endure the plow before it germinates and grows; but the message of two thousand years ago is the same message we hear today: discipleship is difficult, troublesome, and usually unpopular. We have received the Word, but allowing it to flourish in our hearts and then govern our hands, feet, lips, and minds can be another thing entirely. When we are feeling as though discipleship is too onerous for us, we always go back to the one idea which is central to our lives: With God, all things are possible. Life may look impossible when we are down, but we can still reach our potential as a disciple. We can still be Christ-like. We can transform ourselves with the purifying fire of the struggles we experience. We can be touched and healed if we open ourselves to the possibility of miracles. And we can, in turn, offer our simple life to Christ by opening it to others.

Adapted from a Favorite written on March 3, 2007.

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John 21: Glory, Part XIV – Epilogue

Mike Moyers: Breakfast At Dawn

Mike Moyers: Breakfast At Dawn

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Disappointment, fear, hatred, trouble, emptiness, and doubt – these are the valleys we traverse on our road with God’s glory. Jesus washes our feet, gives us life on his great vine of love, tells us of the Advocate and asks us to hand ourselves over for the gift healing unity. And Jesus asks that we hand ourselves over in humility as true followers rather than passing fans. These are the gifts we have discovered on our road with God’s glory. Today’s we look at our final lesson on Glory: The epilogue of the Jesus story is the prologue of our own. How do we wish to tell it?

When we spend time with the last chapter of John’s Gospel, we will find many parallels between the lives of the apostles and our own. We can look at this brief list and add examples of our own discipleship.

  • The apostles go back to their old way of earning a living when Jesus leaves; and this is what we often do when we discover something about the kingdom but do not quite own it. We revert to what is familiar, even if it is not good.
  • Jesus calls his followers “children”. If these fishermen and the women who tend to this group are children then certainly so are we.
  • It is the beloved apostle, John, who recognizes Jesus while the others do not. We can imagine how many times a day Jesus walks past us without our noticing.
  • Peter is so excited when he sees Jesus on the shoreline that he leaps from the boat to walk on water, doubts and falters, but rises when Jesus encourages him. We also do this when we respond to God’s call, flounder, yet are raised up by the Creator.
  • When Jesus tells the tired apostles where to fish there are too many to haul on board in the same body of water where there were none. Too often we are tempted to cease just fishing when we need to continue.
  • Jesus cooks and eats with his tired followers. The Resurrected Jesus is just as real as the Human Jesus, they are one and the same. And this man who loves us so much and so well calls us to be nourished in him. He calls us to this same resurrection that he experiences.

Footnotes and commentary tell us that the character of this last chapter of John has non-Johannine “peculiarities” that suggest it was written by Luke.  Others say that it was definitely written by John.  Whoever the writer, it is clear that he is impelled to depict with clarity the surprise and happiness of these disciples Jesus knows so well. The writer is also eager for his readers to experience this same surprise and happiness in their own lives. And so it is with the last verse that he invites us to add our own stories of glory in and with God to this incredible story of goodness, mercy and light in a world that is too often dark . . . There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.

Jesus is as big as all of us.  Jesus is as small and intimate as each of us. Separately and together we are Christ. How do we take him into the world every day?  Is this epilogue the end of the story . . . or is it the beginning of another encounter between us and our God? Is this the beginning or the end of God’s glory?

Adapted from a reflection written on February 26, 2008.

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John 16: Glory, Part VII – Trouble

Jan Victors: Hannah Giving her son Samuel to the priest Eli

Jan Victors: Hannah Giving her son Samuel to the priest Eli

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Today’s lesson on Glory: When we experience God’s glory, barrenness is made fertile, mourning becomes joy, and lack becomes surfeit. We must not avoid the deserts in our lives.

In his last evening with his disciples, Jesus leaves with a warning of persecution and he tells them of how the world will hate him and all that he stands for.  Discipleship will be difficult, he says, but there is also good news: a new Comforter will come to them and he himself will rejoin them in a way they have not been able to imagine.  He will return from the dead.  And he will reveal even more to them than he already has.  All of this is too much for them to take in.  It is too much for us to take in. Yet these words lay out the premise that we experience God’s glory through the trouble in our lives.

You will weep and mourn but the world will rejoice; you will have pain but your pain will turn into joy. 

All of this brings us to a basic truth: the difficulties we experience are more than they seem . . . they are opportunities for joy and an insurmountable interior peace. A mini-reflection from MAGNIFICAT reads: What we formerly perceived as barrenness in our life has become filled with a Presence – the Presence for which we were made.  This is in reference to an important story in 1 Samuel 1, the story of Hannah, the barren wife who pleads with God out of her sorrow.  Her request is granted and she not only bears her first son who becomes the great prophet Samuel, she bears even more.  We are told that Hannah weeps from the bitterness of her soul (1 Samuel 1:10).  Peninnah, her husband’s; second wife who is not barren, taunts Hannah about her apparent curse; Hannah persists in her praying.  The priest Eli believes her to be drunk (1 Samuel 1:13); yet Hannah continues in her prayer.  Then Eli tells her that the Lord will hear her petition and Hannah’s face is no longer downcast (1 Samuel 1:18).  She returns home and her grief becomes joy when she conceives and bears this son who is to be an integral part of human history.  It is then that she understands how her barrenness has turned into joy – through the work of God’s plan – and she rejoices that she has been able to participate fully in this mystery.  She sings a hymn of praise (1 Samuel 2): My heart rejoices in the Lord . . . there is no one like the Lord . . . there is no rock like our God . . . the Lord brings death and he makes alive . . . he brings down to the grave and he raises up.  It is not by strength that one prevails; those who oppose the Lord will be shattered . . . He will guard the feet of his saints.

Jesus reminds us of this again today.  He says: I have much more to tell you but you cannot bear it now . . . I have told you so that you might have peace in me.   In the world you have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.

When we find ourselves in a barren portion of our lives, we might come back to these stories and these words to remind ourselves that when misery overtakes us and the pain is greater than we can bear, this may well be an indication that we have entered into the very mystery we have sought. This may be evidence that we are fully engaging in our own transformation.  It may be the opening to a new Presence, a new beatitude which we otherwise cannot experience . . . if we have not found ourselves in trouble with the world.

Adapted from a reflection written on January 11, 2010.

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 11 January 2010. Print.

Click on the image above for a post from Ecumenical Women at the United Nations

Compare various Bible versions of this story and consider when or how our mourning might lead to our joy.

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