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Gospel Reflection for May 31, 2015, Trinity Sunday

27 May
Photo via Flickr user Larry Koester

Photo via Flickr user Larry Koester

Sunday Readings: Deuteronomy 4.32-34, 39-40; Romans 8.14-17; Matthew 2816-20

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe all I have commanded you.”

(Matthew 28.19-20)

Our God is no smug solitary being enclosed in egocentric self-regard but the living God, three persons in free communion, always going forth in love and receiving love. Our Judeo-Christian traditions testify that our God is irrepressibly friendly, steadfast, faithful, and compassionate toward us.

Our heads start to hurt when we think about God, whom we experience as close as we are to ourselves but beyond the adequacy of our words. Importantly the Trinity is a communion of equals, not a monarchy, giving us community and mutual love as models of how to live on Earth as in heaven.

What is at stake in trying to understand God as a communion of equals? How do you experience God?

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Gospel Reflection for May 24, 2015, Pentecost Sunday

19 May

Gospel-people2

Sunday Readings: Acts 2.1-11; 1 Corinthians 12.3-7, 12-13; John 20.19-23

“Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

(John 19.23)

To send his friends forth with the good news of Easter, Jesus breathes the Spirit on the community gathered in fear and prayer. This is a sacramental scene. Breathing is Jesus’ sign of the Spirit of God’s power in us — invisible but life-essential air, moving into our lungs, hearts, blood, and brain, animating every cell of our bodies, coextensive with being alive. The Holy Spirit is a transforming give in us.

The Spirit calls us always toward peace, unity, and new life. Where bitterness, grudges, greed, pride, estrangement, addiction put up walls, freeze people out, fray family and friendship bonds, there the Spirit unsettles us, looking to mend.

The Spirit thaws the frozen, bends the stubborn, shakes the arrogant. The giver of life empowers us to be life-givers in our relationships and continuously renew the face of earth.

What is a peacemaking action you no longer want to put off?

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Ascension

12 May
Photo via Flickr user Katharina Friederike

Photo via Flickr user Katharina Friederike

“To them I have revealed your name, so that your love for me may live in them.” – John 17.26

Whose kindnesses and love bring this text alive in your life? How can you, too, have Christ’s love live on in your daily tasks?

Put a photo of someone you admire or love in a place where you see it daily. Give thanks to God for this person in your life.

Prayer for the week

Come, Holy Spirit.

Gospel Reflection for May 17, 2015, Ascension

11 May

Sunday Readings: Acts 1.1-11; Ephesians 1.17-23; Mark 16.15-20

“Go to the whole world and preach the gospel.”

(Mark 16.15)

The ascension is the hinge event between Jesus’ resurrection and his sending of the Spirit. Luke’s gospel ends with Jesus’ ascension and the Acts of the Apostles begins with the same scene. Luke draws on ancient imagery of God’s heavenly court to picture Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, returning to reign with God, to take his place at God’s right hand. As God’s incarnate Son, human and divine, Jesus is the firstborn of a new creation — the promise of who we are to become.

What are you looking to heaven for that you should be doing on Earth?

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Gospel Reflections for May 10, 2015, 6th Sunday of Easter

6 May
Photo via Flickr user Garry Knight

Photo via Flickr user Garry Knight

Sunday Readings: Acts 10.25-26, 34-35, 44-48; 1 John 4.7-10; John 15.9-17

“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Live on in my love.”

(John 15.9)

What a lovely scripture passage for Mother’s Day! We live on in our love for one another. We are social beings. We live and grow in our shared relationships — family, friends. In our intimate relationships we in a sense create each other. We let others know us and share who we are with them. In being known we recognize ourselves. In loving and being loved, we flourish. Moms do this, friends do this. Jesus does this in becoming one of us and accompanying us.

In whose love do you live?

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6th Week of Easter

5 May
Photo via Flickr user Olga Lednichenko

Photo via Flickr user Olga Lednichenko

“Peace is my gift to you.” – John 14.27

Jesus promises his disciples peace. He sends them on Easter evening to be instruments of his peace and forgiveness as God has sent him. Be an instrument of peace in your family and office.

Look over the day each evening to see how what the Spirit of Christ risen is teaching you.

Prayer of the week: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Yes, Everywhere

1 May
Photo via Flickr user Doug Brown

Photo via Flickr user Doug Brown

John 4:16-26

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’;18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

Sometimes the truth is so good we need to be reminded of it on a regular basis. The youth I work with receive this passage as good news. They do not need to go to the mountain or Jerusalem to find God. The Spirit and truth are everywhere; we are swimming in it all the time. They do find a sense of something bigger than themselves in worship at church, but it also gives them so much relief to be reminded that their experience of the divine in other places is real, it counts.

I’m not sure where we get this limiting idea that thin space is confined to church buildings, but in all the years I have worked with youth, I find I must often remind them that it is okay– it’s wonderful, in fact– to seek God everywhere. Jesus tore down the veil so that we all have access to the Spirit. God is alive in worship, yes, but also in every other space that is.

They tell me stories of climbing mountains and sitting by streams. They speak of being in the zone, being totally present in their bodies during sports competitions or sweating alone on a long run. They tell me about laughing with their whole being in the safety of friends on a summer day. Yet there is still a look in their eyes as they recount their experience of the divine that is asking me, an adult, if their answer is acceptable.

Yes, yes, yes, I urge them on. Yes. God created you. The Spirit inside of you intensifies and wakes up where it will. Trust it. Lean on it. Continue to go get that feelings. How Jesus comes to you matters. He assures us that Jerusalem, the mountains and everywhere in between is fair game. This truth is good. I can see it in their eyes.

The small plot of ground On which you were born Cannot be expected To stay forever The same. Each changes, And homes becomes different Places. You took flesh From Clay But the clay Did not come From just one Place. To feel alive, Important, and safe Know your own waters And hills, but know more. You have stars in your bones and oceans in blood. You have opposing terrain in each eye. You belong to the Land; and sky at your first cry, you belong to infinty.  -Alla Renee Bozarth

Gospel Reflection for May 3, 2015, 5th Sunday of Easter

29 Apr

Sunday Readings: Acts 9.26-31; 1 John 3.18-24; John 15.1-8

“I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”

(John 15.5)

A vine is a single plant. All its branches share the life its roots draw from the soil and its leaves from the sun. A vine can spread extravagantly from its roots but one life flows through the whole plant. The branches abide on the vine.

Friendship with Jesus lasts into risen life. It remains, abides. Communion of life persists. The risen Jesus is at home in his disciples and they are at home with him. Jesus dwells or abides in them and they abide or dwell in him. We live in God’s love as Jesus does.

In what relationships do you abide? How do these relationships help you understand your relationships with Jesus and with God?

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5th Week of Easter

28 Apr
Love-Large

Photo via Flickr user Farrukh

“I give you a new commandment: Love one another.”

John 13.34

The risen Jesus makes “Love one another” the simple command he leaves with his friends. Love is not only a feeling but a verb, actions we do. Serve. Include. Forgive. Share. Reach out. Listen. Comfort.

Pay attention to local and world news events about people of other cultures and religions, or those suffering neglect or hate. Pray for them. Live your prayer and the new commandment at home and in the office. Find a way to step beyond your usual circle to help someone in need of food, education, shelter, presence.

Prayer of the Week: God is good to all and compassionate toward all God has made.

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.

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