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Ash Wednesday: A New Beginning

5 Feb
Click on the image above to download your Lent cross.

Click on the image above to download your Lent cross.

Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, is next Wednesday. If you have not downloaded the Lent 2016 cross from Good Ground Press, do so now. You can begin adding color to the cross by choosing from the activities below. The spaces on the cross are color-coded.

  1. Plant activities are green
  2. Simplify activities are yellow
  3. Pray is purple
  4. Reading is blue
  5. Family/Friends are red
  6. Participate is orange

Here are some suggestions for the first days of Lent. We will add more each week during Lent.

1. Plant  Buy a pot of bulbs that only need your care to grow.

2. Simplify  Minimize the electricity you use for a day.

3. Pray  Find a minute of quiet to let your concerns for others rise to God in prayer.

4. Reading  Read the Gospel for Ash Wednesday written below.

5. Family/Friends  Make the phone call you have been putting off.

6. Participate  Volunteer your energy or your money in some small way.


Ash Wednesday gospel reading

Jesus said to his disciples, “Be on guard against performing religious acts for people to see.  Otherwise expect no recompense from your heavenly Father.  When you give alms, for example, do not blow a horn before you in synagogues and streets like hypocrites looking for applause.  You can be sure of this much, they are already repaid.  In giving alms you are not to let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.  Keep your deeds of mercy secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
“When you are praying, do not behave like the hypocrites who love to stand and pray in synagogues or on street corners in order to be noticed.  I give you my word, they are already repaid.  Whenever you pray, go to your room close your door, and pray to your Father in private.  Then your Father, who sees what no man sees, will repay you.
“When you fast, you are not to look glum as the hypocrites do.  They change the appearance of their faces so that others may see they are fasting.  I assure you, they are already repaid.  When you fast, see to it that you groom your hair and wash your face.  In that way no one can see you are fasting but your Father who is hidden; and your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

Matthew 6.1-6, 16-18

 

 

Finding Prophets Among Scribes

5 Feb
Photo via Flickr user Quinn Dombrowski

Photo via Flickr user Quinn Dombrowski

Prophets tend to have a difficult life. It’s a tough gig. They see society as it really is, and speak truth to power. They are rarely taken seriously, often ignored, because we are pretty sure we don’t want to hear what they have to say. They give a comforting word to those suffering, and judge those who hold power harshly. They promise justice, which is not good news for those perpetuating injustice. They offer hope to the mourners while clearly pointing out the source of the grief.

We are in desperate need of some prophets– people who can imagine the world without war and hatred and violence– to call us to a higher place. What if we could see each other as God sees us, and act accordingly, so that compassion ruled the day?

Prophets rarely make it into the limelight. They are on the outskirts, calling for us to turn around and pay attention. They are running grassroots protests and feeding people and asking policy makers to show more humanity in a way that makes us uncomfortable because they are right. They are living in a way that seems like they may have a more direct line to God, who is tirelessly trying to work through our broken humanity.

During campaign season, we look to our candidates in hopes of finding a prophet. We look for people who have this God-inspired vision of what our country could and should look like. I can’t help but wonder, though, if our fast moving, media- driven society hushes prophets and glorifies scribes.

As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces,  and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! –Mark 12:39

In this presidential campaign season, we will hear a few people do a lot of talking, and several more people talk about those people talking. It is a season to beware. Who are we giving authority to? Who are we listening to–prophets or scribes? We do need to pay attention to the campaign, of course. We need to vote with our ballots and vote with our billfolds and television remotes and laptop mice. Meanwhile, I will keep searching for prophets and preparing my heart to listen.

 

Gospel Reflection for February 7, 2016, 5th Sunday Ordinary Time

2 Feb

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 6.1-8; 1 Corinthians 15.1-11; Luke 5.1-11

“Simon put out his nets and caught so many fish that the nets began to break.”

(Luke 5.6)

Peter fishes all night without success. A miraculous catch of fish follows the next day in response to Jesus’ charge to put out into the deep water. The two fishing expeditions express a contrast in the history of the first century church. Fewer Jews follow Jesus than the great numbers of Gentiles that join the Christian communities around the Mediterranean Sea. Two boat loads overflow with believers in Luke’s story. The response of Gentiles has surprised Peter and Paul in the same way the great catch surprises Peter in this story.

What attracts new believers to the gospel today?

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Gospel Reflection for January 31, 2016, 4th Sunday Ordinary Time

27 Jan

Scripture Readings: Jeremiah 1.4-5, 17-19; 1 Corinthians 13.4-13; Luke 4.21-30

“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

(Luke 4.21)

These words begin Jesus’ inaugural sermon in Luke’s gospel. In last Sunday’s gospel Jesus read a passage from Isaiah that describes a prophet whom the Spirit anoints and appoints to bring good news to the poor, freedom to captives, sight to the blind, to proclaim a jubilee in which those who have lost out in society get a new chance to thrive. Jesus invites the congregation in the synagogue to hear Isaiah’s word not as an ancient, someday promise but as a present claim. Jesus is the Spirit-filled prophet called to make the human race a whole, flourishing community. Pope Francis has proclaimed 2016 a Jubilee Year of Mercy, when we remember Jesus is the human face of God’s love, love we don’t deserve and doesn’t run out.

For whom are you good news? Who is good news for you?

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Gospel Reflection for January 24, 2016, 3rd Sunday Ordinary Time

19 Jan

Sunday Readings: Nehemiah 8.2-4, 5-6, 8-10; 1 Corinthians 12.12-30; Luke 1.1-4, 4.14-21

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; God has anointed and sent me to proclaim good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty for captives, sight for the blind, release to prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord.”

(Luke 4.18-19)

Prisoners make the list along with the poor, the weak, and the disabled — the people about whom it is easiest to say, “not worth it.” Perhaps some of these undesirable folks may open important places inside us, like the towers of arrogance, the locked doors of self-deception, or the vaults of false pride. One of them may transform us.

Who has been surprisingly transforming for you in your life?

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Gospel Reflection for January 17, 2016, 2nd Sunday Ordinary Time

12 Jan
Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 62.1-5; 1 Corinthians 12.4-11; John 2.1-11

“His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever Jesus tells you.’ Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding 20 or 30 gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.'”

(John 2.5-7)

The wedding setting in the gospel hints at a marriage other than the one the guests are celebrating. His mother and newly-recruited disciples accompany Jesus to the wedding. Turning six 20-gallon jars of water into choice wine provides 120 gallons for a wedding feast that must be nearly over if the guests have drunk up the available wine. The abundant wine Jesus provides is not just for the wedding guests in Cana but for the community that continues to gather in his name at every Eucharist.

How do you live the words of Jesus’ mother, “Do whatever he tells you?”

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Gospel Reflection for January 10, 2016, Baptism of the Lord

5 Jan

Sunday Scripture Readings: Isaiah 40.1-5, 9-11; Titus 2.11-14, 3.4-7; Luke 3.15-16, 21-22

“He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

(Luke 3.16)

After the exile in Babylon many people return to the land of Israel, rebuild their city and temple, and revive their worship. Then Greek and Roman conquerors arrive, threatening the temple and the people’s religious identity. By the time of John the Baptist, people wonder where to look for salvation. If God’s salvation isn’t able to come through the land, or the king, or temple worship, or the law, then how and where will it come?

Into this very unsettled state of affairs arrives John the Baptist. No one works with greater zeal and tirelessness than John to make the people ready to welcome the messiah. He insists that God’s savior is near at hand and prods the people to keep looking. At his baptism Jesus comes out of the waters to be blessed by the Spirit and voice of God in his mission as servant and Son.

What do our baptisms empower? What does this action call us to live out? To what does it set fire in us?

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Gospel Reflection for January 3, 2016, Epiphany

30 Dec
Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The Word

Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The Word

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 60.1-6; Ephesians 3.2-3, 5-6; Matthew 2.1-12

“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We observe his star at its rising and have come to pay him h0mage.”

(Matthew 2.2)

The three kings stand for all of us who do not share the Jewish identity of Jesus and his first followers. Jesus is not just for Jew or just for Christian either. Exclusiveness is a natural inclination. Life is easier with people who are like us, who think the way we think, and do things the way we do. But there is no mistaking the message of Epiphany. God is inclusive and wants us to be so in matters of faith and worship and managing the goods of the world. Jew or Gentile, Christian or Muslim, native or alien, black, brown, yellow, red, or white, male or female, straight or gay — whoever we are and wherever we are from — we are all invited and welcome to visit the child of Bethlehem and receive the good news of peace, mercy, and reconciliation he brings.

What have you learned from people of other faiths about what they value about Jesus?

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God is With Us

23 Dec
Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus. –Matthew 1:18-25

A young man found the courage to weather a spoiled reputation to encounter God. Filled with anticipation of marriage, the life he expected shattered. The idea of the righteous family he was building came crumbling down.

Oh, the shame.

In the darkness, he grew quiet. Quiet enough to hear an angel. He changed his mind. He held a baby that did not belong to him, but the whole world. That baby changed everything. Forever.

Like Joseph, we get wrapped up in what the world thinks of us. We fear being disgraced and dismissed, clamoring to appear righteous and good. But this world does not have the final say. Jesus is coming to show us a new way. What greater gift could God give us than God’s very presence?

There are angels in our midst. They are calling to us in the quiet. But where is God? Where is God’s kingdom? We can’t see it.

We look again. God is here. In the darkness. Offering hope that surpasses all understanding. Amen. Come Lord Jesus.

Gospel Reflection for December 25 & 27, 2015, Christmas/Holy Family

21 Dec

Christmas Gospel Readings: Luke 2.1-14; Holy Family Readings: 1 Samuel 1.20-22,24-28; 1 John 3.1-2,21-24; Luke 2.41-52

“Mary gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the in.”

(Luke 2.7)

The child who is God’s joy for the world is born among the poor to include the poor in God’s good news.  Christmas opens doors and widens tables in the spirit of making room for the Christ child for whom there was no room in the inn.

Fittingly the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family on the Sunday after Christmas.  Already in the gospel for that day Jesus is a tween, a 12 year old who goes his own way instead of journeying home from Passover with his parents.  When Mary questions why he didn’t tell them where he was, Jesus expects they should have known he’d be about his Father’s business.

Mary gives us a model of a reflective disciple.  She is amazed at Jesus’ insight and wisdom; baffled by why he left their company; reproachful about the hurt and fear she experienced; and finally, willing to keep reflecting on what happened.

With what young people have you talked about how you live and practice your faith?

If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
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