Doers of the Word

7 May

22 But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. 23 For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves[a] in a mirror; 24 for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. 25 But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing. –James 1:22-25

Last week I sat with a heavy heart at work. Because of my spouse’s work at Lutheran World Relief, I traveled to Nepal and saw the beautiful land and met the fascinating people. I could picture, then, the devastating earthquake in a slightly more personal way. My spouse, busy raising awareness about and funds for the earthquake, then received news that the headquarters of LWR in Baltimore had sent staff home to avoid the rioting in the downtown area. The staff in the Minneapolis office kept plugging away, with their minds in both Baltimore and Nepal. It was a day when I let my heart feel the weight of the earthquake and the rioting. I grew tired. I played Ben Kyle’s song “Mercy” on repeat. I took deep breaths to counter feeling overwhelmed.

On a trip to the bathroom, I met Mavis. She introduced herself and invited me to come into a nearby room and see what she was doing. Mavis is part of a quilting group at church. Every Tuesday a few women get together and make quilts to donate to Lutheran World Relief. I told Mavis about my spouse and his work, that he was able to see a quilt distribution in India and see how happy it made refugees to receive something personal, colorful and warm after losing so much in their own personal lives. Mavis smiled.

“You know,” she said, “A lot of groups here at church are just fine. They get together and eat and talk, and that’s great. We do that, too. But I love that our group also works really hard and gets something done every week.”

Mavis gave me hope and pulled me out of my fog. There are things to be done. God wants to co-create with us. Mavis isn’t looking for recognition. Her works goes unnoticed, mostly. Yet she keeps on, week in and week out, using her gifts and her time making warm, personal, beautiful things to give to people who need them. On that Tuesday, when the world was hurting, I felt better knowing that Mavis and her crew were busy being doers of the word. They were making the world better, one stitch at a time.

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?

If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
to order a subscription or request a free sample.
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

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?

If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
to order a subscription or request a free sample.
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

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.

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?

If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
to order a subscription or request a free sample.
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

Spiritual Practice

17 Apr
Photo via Flickr user Loving Earth

Photo via Flickr user Loving Earth

I opened the closet door and lifted my turquoise mat out from where it was wedged in the corner. About ten feet from the bassinet holding my sleeping baby, I unrolled the mat slowly.

The last thing my nurse called out to me was No yoga for six weeks! as I left the hospital with Simon and Dan to go home. My mind wandered to that moment. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. It was time.

I put my feet in the middle of the mat, lightly kissing each other, picked up all ten toes and placed them back down from outside to in, fanning them wide to get a solid base. I noticed how the grid of micro bumps on the mat felt on the soles of my feet. My feet looked slender, my toes seemed long. It had been months since I saw the tendons and muscles flexing and relaxing. They had been swallowed up by swollenness for so long.

I straightened my spine, one vertebrae stacked on top of the next, until I was reaching the crown of my head toward the ceiling. My skeleton engaged, creating space for air and blood to flow. The correct alignment gave my muscles instant relief. Inhale. Exhale. I smelled like milk. Shining my palms forward slowly, the muscles hugging my shoulder blades seemed to creak, so tired and forgotten, used to hours of curling forward to feed, rock, hush, embrace a tiny person who needed me. I rolled my shoulders up to my ears and back, tucking my shoulder blades in and forward, balancing the movement with gently pulling my chin back. Inhale. Exhale. Kneecaps engaged, I swept my arms up toward the sky, my soft eyes glancing between my thumbs. Both shoulders cracked, the left, then the right. Standing tall, I could feel muscles in my abdomen and womb call my attention. I breathed into those places, taking note, reconnecting with my body. Worn, but strong.

This is what I love about spiritual practice. It’s repetition gets trapped in our bodies, our muscle memory, our DNA. There is comfort in the familiar, in the tangible. Whether it is the feel of prayer beads between our fingers, the ritual of lighting a candle before prayer, the chair that molds around you and your devotional, the action ties us to the past and the future. After wandering, which we all do from time to time, we come back to the practice. God is always there, awaiting our return with grace and love. The practice, like God, welcomes us home.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,495 other followers

%d bloggers like this: