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Community Truth

24 Apr
Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The word

Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The word

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again,”Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” 26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. –John 20

Every Easter season we hear the same story. The tomb is empty. The impossible happened. Life wins. Every Easter season we are confronted by the absurdly hopeful idea that Jesus rose from the dead. Every year, we have to decide all over again if we believe. Unlike Thomas, we don’t get to stick our fingers in the wounds of Jesus for proof. We have not seen, but are asked to believe. At times, it can seem daunting, to decide what, in fact, I actually believe.

My spouse, who can read this text in it’s original language, pointed out something in this passage that offered me a sense of comfort this Easter season. Look at the differences between all the “we’s” and “I’s” and “you’s”. Look at the difference between what the disciples say and what Jesus says to the disciples, and what Thomas says. Jesus says “Peace be with you (plural). As the Father has sent me, so I send you (plural).” And the disciples say to Thomas, “We have seen the Lord.” Thomas, on the other hand, is all “I’s” and “me” and “my”: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

Now, that may seem like a small detail. Thomas is one person speaking, while the disciples are speaking as a group; of course Thomas would use singular pronouns. But there’s something bigger going on here. The truth of Jesus’ resurrection doesn’t rely on a singular person’s experience. It wasn’t just Mary Magdalene who saw the empty tomb; it was Mary and Simon, Peter, and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and then the others. And Jesus didn’t appear to just her or him. Jesus appeared to them.

The truth of Jesus’ resurrection doesn’t rely on a singular person’s experience. In fact, the truth rarely does. Truth is communal. Truth is held by communities. What is overwhelming to me at times is having to speak from the I singular. It is wonderful to concentrate on speaking from the I plural. I enjoy thinking, talking, studying and discussing as a community, knowing the community leans on years and decades and centuries of thought. I enjoy having my thoughts changed or grown or strengthened by the stories and experiences of my neighbors and my community and people across the world who think differently than I do. That support, that accountability, that communal discernment offers me comfort on the way. So let us, this Easter season, continue to work toward articulating and living out what we together believe.

4th Week of Easter

21 Apr
Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The Word

Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The Word

 

“My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me.” – John 10.27

Good shepherds care for their flocks, or employees, or clients, or students as they do for themselves. They accompany their flocks through danger, drought, and dark valleys.

Hear what God’s voice directs you to do in your daily life. Be a caring friend and coworker this week, especially to those who seem outside the flock or in danger.

 

Prayer of the Week: Lord, you are my shepherd. Let me hear your voice.

Gospel Reflection for April 26, 2015, 4th Sunday of Easter

21 Apr

Sunday Readings: Acts 4.8-12; 1 John 3.1-2; John 10.11-18

“I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep, and mine know me. Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. I lay down my life for the sheep.”

(John 10.14-15)

As the good shepherd, Jesus reveals his Father’s continuing love for Israel and extends this love to all. God loves Jesus for freely laying down his life for the sheep because his action reveals the Father’s love for all.

Whom do you shepherd? For whom are you laying down your life?

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Gospel Reflection for April 19, 2015, 3rd Sunday of Easter

14 Apr

Sunday Readings: Acts 3.13-15, 17-19; 1 John 2.1-5; Luke 24.35-48

Jesus stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” His disciples were startled and terrified…He said to them, “Why are you troubled? Why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and feet, that it is I myself.”

(Luke 24.36-39)

In Sunday’s resurrection scene from Luke, some believe, some question, some suspend judgement. For his disciples Jesus’ resurrection recalibrates who God is and what God does in our world.

Our time also puts God in new contexts and stirs mixed emotions. Some cling to past certainties. Many disaffiliate from institutional religions. Church scandals have sent many Catholics into the ranks of the none-affiliated. Others retreat from doctrines built on worldviews people today no longer hold.

Some of us stay and seek fresh insights in dialogue with science, technology, and other religions. We recognize that evolution doesn’t conflict with faith but our image of God as fixed and static seems inadequate in an evolving world. God is more than we previously imagined. God’s creative love unfolds dynamically from inanimate to living and conscious creatures. It’s a wow and a wonder. God addresses us as much from the future as the past.

My own faith in resurrection rests not only on the gospel testimony of the first witnesses but my experience of being with my mother in her last days. Her spirit became increasingly transparent in her body. This and creation itself keeps me open to the impossible coming to be.

What is the mix of your feelings this Easter season — amazement, joy, disbelief?

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3rd Week of Easter

14 Apr
Photo via Flickr user AshtonPal

Photo via Flickr user AshtonPal

“Do you love me?” – John 21.17

Three times the risen Jesus asks his friend and disciple Peter the question, “Do you love me?” Perhaps Jesus asks three times because Peter denied Jesus three times. Live your answer to Jesus’ question this week. Testify in your actions that you love those with whom Jesus identifies in this world.

Give a gift of attentive, uninterrupted listening this week to two people — the one you love most and one very different from you, perhaps foreign in culture. Remember each evening ways your actions said, “Lord, you know that I love you.”

Prayer for the Week: You know that I love you.

2nd Week of Easter

7 Apr
Photo via Flickr user Mark Sardella

Photo via Flickr user Mark Sardella

“Do not persist in your unbelief, but believe!” – John 20.27

Most of us doubt at times in our lives. We doubt faith matters or can change the world. We sometimes doubt that we ourselves, or people we love, or religious institutions can respond to the renewing Spirit.

Identify a specific doubt you carry. Ask for the guidance of the Spirit to resolve the doubt or to live into a new insight. Seek insight by walking and observing creation awakening to new life.

Prayer for the Week: I believe. Help my unbelief.

Gospel Reflection for April 12, 2015, 2nd Sunday of Easter

6 Apr

Sunday Readings: Acts 4.32-35; 1 John 5.1-6; John 19-31

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, Jesus breathed on his disciples and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you shall forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

(John 20.21-23)

The risen Jesus brings his disciples two gifts — peace and new life. Jesus breathes the new life of the Spirit upon his disciples just as in the beginning God breathed the spirit of life into the first earthling in Genesis 2.7. The new life Jesus’ Spirit inspires is forgiveness. The gifts become a commission. Jesus sends the community out to make the lives of others whole as he has made their lives new and whole.

When have you found new life in forgiving or being forgiven?

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Are We Rome?

3 Apr
Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

 

Happy Holy Week to you, one and all.

On Palm Sunday, we imagined Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. We wondered what this procession of palms may have looked like. Was it to fulfill a prophecy? How many people caught the reference to Zachariah in the moment? Was it, as Crossan and Borg argue in The Last Week, a procession to challenge the Imperial Procession of Pilate and counter the dominating system? Pilate’s procession symbolized Roman military, theology and political might. Was Jesus reminding us that God’s kingdom counters that of worldly domination?

Did Jesus know what he would find when he got to the temple?

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers. –Matthew 21:12-23

We imagine Jesus turning over tables and try to reconcile his anger with our ideas of his perfection. What, today, is worth our righteous anger? Are we complicit in the dominating system of our day that Jesus was countering by riding in from the East on a donkey?

On Palm Sunday, the youth in our congregation make and sell Cinnamon Rolls in celebration of Holy Week and to raise money for our summer work trips. We pictured Jesus, having to pass our table where money was being exchanged on his way to the sanctuary for worship. Would he turn over our table and call our gallery a den of robbers?

“I’d like to think Jesus would buy a cinnamon roll from us,” a ninth grader said.

Yet the image lingers. Would Jesus turn over my table in anger? This Holy Week, I’m wondering what procession I am truly taking part in. If Jesus’ journey into Jerusalem to die was really about, in part, countering the violence, power and glory of the dominating empire that ruled the world at that time, how can I follow him more closely today?

Gospel Reflection for April 5, 2015, Easter Sunday

31 Mar

Sunday Readings: Acts 10.34,37-43; Colossians 3.1-4 (Easter Vigil: Mark 16.1-7);  John 20.1-9 (10-18)

“I have seen the Lord,” Mary Magdalene announces to the community of Jesus’ disciples when she returns from encountering her Teacher on Easter morning (John 20.18). Jesus sends her as the apostle to the apostles to tell them, “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” We share Jesus’ relationship with God. That’s a wow.

Personally I am a late comer to relationship with Jesus. It is creation that awakened me to divine presence in the world—in the flowering ditches of my childhood and the meadows of mountain hikes.  It is the wonder of seeds sprouting, rooting, growing, multiplying that grounds my faith. In my deepest adult experience of God it is the Spirit I found underlying my existence, affirming I was okay.

Jesus lives his life so fast. He encounters opposition as soon as he opens his mouth in Galilee. Although he prays that God take the cup of suffering from him, he faces it. In the three short last days he makes bread and wine signs of his wholehearted self-giving; he undergoes the pain and humiliation of his passion, and dies on the cross.

However, now that I am older and go to funerals for family and more frequently, I see the Lord in lives lived long and slowly, lives poured out over years of days for spouses and children, for the good of neighbor and the common civic good.

I watched sisters in their 90s walk slowly into the Vespers that welcomed the Vatican visitors to our congregation. These women have poured out their lives endlessly for the work of the gospel and aren’t done yet. They were among the women the Vatican was investigating and in whom I see the Lord.

In whom have you seen the Lord?

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Rocking

26 Mar
Photo via Flickr user McBeth

Photo via Flickr user McBeth

Only Noah was left, and those that were with him in the ark. And the waters swelled on the earth for one hundred fifty days. –Genesis 7:23-24

The Noah story is a little terrifying. I mean, God gets angry at humankind and sends a flood to destroy everyone except Noah’s family. That is not a light plot line. Herbert Brokering, however, In Love, Dad: Letters of Faith to my Children, sees a different angle:

Rocking is the story of Noah’s family in the flood…inside the womb of the ark they rocked…This ancient Bible story is about being safe…

Safe? I always read the story and got stuck on the destruction, the anger, the death. I never spent enough time on the boat with Noah to read the story and see God rocking Noah. But now that I have read it, I can’t get the image out of my mind.For 150 days God rocked Noah. Brokering goes on from God rocking Noah to Brokering himself rocking his children:

O how we held you when we rocked you. You clung to us, we rocked each other…I believe rocking is in part of us all. It is how we stayed alive in our mother. Nine months we rocked.

He explains the different rocking chairs they had at home and how each child liked to be rocked a little differently. I picture him, as a father, rocking his babies with patience, attention and care. I can’t read this without crying. It’s true. I rock my baby and my baby rocks me back. We rock each other. I know just how he likes to be rocked. When I slow dance with my husband, it feels like rocking. When I am tired, or grieving, needing comfort or affection, I rock. We learn it in our mothers’ wombs and it never leaves us, the rhythm of rocking.

I pretend God has a rocker.

The image of God with a rocker is so tender it breaks something open in me. It presents God not as Father, but as daddy. Or mommy. And the tenderness in the image is almost too much to bear. I think I, too, will pretend God has a rocker.

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