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Gospel Reflection for May 22, 2016, Trinity Sunday

17 May

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Sunday Readings: Proverbs 8.22-31; Romans 5.1-5; John 16.12-15

“The Spirit will glorify me because the Spirit will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

(John 16.14)

Most Christians grasp as Creator and God as incarnate Son more easily than an image of God as Spirit and guide. We see the creator in parents and grandparents and as one who gives birth to all that is. We see in Jesus God become human, revealing as one of us what God is like.

The Spirit in whom we live, move, and have our being may elude us, until perhaps we lose a parent, grandparent, or friends and experience his or her spirit and voice arising within us. The Spirit is the love or relatedness between Creator, Son, and all that lives.

Jesus shows us God is triune, a community of loving interrelationships that is both one and many. In our human experience three is the beginning of the social threshold. Two people in I-Thous relationship make room for one more and one more to form families and communities. God’s love is always opening out to hold more in communion.

God is not only the Creator of old or the Savior of 2,000 years ago but the Spirit of our daily breath and the deepest present desires, conflicts, and challenges. The Spirit breathes in us today.

How do you experience the Spirit guiding you in your present life?

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Gospel Reflection for May 15, 2016, Pentecost

10 May
Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

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

“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

(John 20.21)

Pentecost is an event not only about the miracle of fiery tongues for Jesus’ disciples. It is also the miracle of the ear for all those from around the Mediterranean hearing the new message about Jesus, messiah and Lord. We may feel insignificant and powerless like the disciples, a minority among their people. We may be new immigrants trying to learn English, expecting not to understand or be understood. Or, we may be powerful leaders and authoritative persons in our community and church.

Today Christ breathes on each one of us in baptism, powerful and powerless, and sends us forth into the world. If we stand among the powerful, today is a day to listen to those too little heard. If we are among those who have little power, today is a day to speak out and act. The miracle of the ear for the powerful works together with the miracle of the tongue for the powerless. Both miracles are essential to make the Pentecost experience complete. The Pentecost interaction is one we badly need in our polarized nation.

What difference does it make to think of the coming of the Holy Spirit as a miracle of both tongue and ear?

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Gospel Reflection for May 8, 2016, Ascension

4 May
Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The Word

Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The Word

Sunday Readings: Acts 1.1-11; Ephesians 1.17-23; Luke 24.46-53

Jesus spoke to his disciples, “Thus it is written that the messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance and forgiveness of sin would be proclaimed in his name to all the nations. You are the witnesses of these things. See I am sending the promise of my Father upon you, so stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

(Luke 24.46-49)

Before we earthlings saw our planet home from space, the heavens belonged unassailably to God. In the cosmology of Jesus’ time, God and heavens were up and humans and Earth were below. Our 2,000-year-old gospel tells the story of the risen Jesus’ return to God in the worldview everyone assumed in the first century. To return to God is to go to the heavens. It is communion with God.

By hindsight in Luke’s gospel, his disciples see Jesus’ suffering and death as necessary. They have passed from confusion to Easter faith. The ascension is the hinge event between Jesus’ resurrection and sending of the Spirit. The Acts of the Apostles becomes the sequel to the gospel as they carry their witness to the ends of the earth.

How do you imagine the communion with his Father to which the risen Jesus returns?

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Gospel Reflection for May 1, 2016, 6th Sunday of Easter

26 Apr

Sunday Readings: Acts 15.1-2,22-29; Revelation 21.10-14; John 14.23-29

 “Those who love me will keep my word and my Father will love them. To them we will come and make our home.”

(John 14.23)

Sunday’s gospel tell us that when people live like Jesus, they discover Jesus and his Father within them. We learn and relearn Jesus’ message from living it. Jesus comes as a friend, an equal who does not exempt himself from the conditions of human life but lives them to the end, facing death on the cross at the hands of empire.

Where does Jesus live after his death and resurrection? Wherever his friends lay down their lives for one another as he did on the cross. Wherever they serve one another humbly as he did rather than lord or lady over other like earthly leaders. Where his friends love one another, they reveal God as Jesus does. They continue his work in the world.

When have you learned Jesus’ message from living it?

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Gospel Reflection for April 24, 2016, 5th Sunday of Easter

19 Apr

Sunday Readings: Acts 14.21-27; Revelation 21.1-5; John 13.31-32, 34-35

Jesus speaks to his disciples at the last supper after Judas leaves. “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you should love one another. In this way all will know that you are my disciples: if you have love for one another.”

(John 1.34-35)

Love lived faithfully and sustained over time translates into actions. Love is a verb. Cook, clean, wash clothes, plan, shop, pay bills, fix. Like the bass drum in a marching band these actions set the pace and rhythm of our days. Hard won achievements become cymbal crashes. Acts of kindness and gratitude lift our hearts like babbling flutes.

As in Jesus’ life, our lives sometimes ask more, even everything we can give. A sick child, a sick parent, mental illness, trips to the doctor, worry, fatigue. Our lives lived long also ask in the end all we have to give.

Jesus stakes his claim with us in our capacity to love one another. In each act we transcend our individual selves and free the power that heals and gives life, that holds families and friends together, that inspires service of country and church, that draws neighbors into communities.

Whose love inspires your own?

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Gospel Reflection for April 17, 2016, 4th Sunday of Easter

13 Apr

Sunday Readings: Acts 13.14, 43-52; Revelation 7.9, 14-17; John 10.27-30

“The Father and I are one.”

(John 10.30)

In chapter 10, John gospel makes an extended comparison between Jesus and shepherds who pasture, protect, and water their flocks and by night sleep in the opening of the sheepfold and become its gate. Sunday’s short gospel passage comes about three quarters of the way through this good shepherd chapter. The words speak promise and comfort as a Sunday reading or a funeral reading. Jesus knows us, his followers; we know him. No one can snatch us from Jesus’ hand or his Father’s hand. In the context of the whole chapter, Jesus’ statement, “The Father and I are one,” causes his listeners to reach for rocks to stone Jesus for blasphemy, for making himself one with and equal to God. In John’s gospel Jesus is from above; he preexists with the father. In chapter 10 near the end Jesus counters, “If I do the works of God, put faith in them (10.38).” Faith in Jesus and his works is faith in God.

What insights into our relationship with God as believers do you find in the imagery of the good shepherd?

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Gospel Reflection for April 10, 2016, 3rd Sunday of Easter

7 Apr
Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Sunday Readings: Acts 5.27-32, 40-41; Revelation 5.11-14; John 21.1-19

“Peter felt hurt because Jesus said to him a third time, ‘Do you love me?’ Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.'”

(John 21.19)

Peter and several of Jesus’ disciples make a big catch of fish by following Jesus’ directions to cast their nets to the starboard side. After the catch and breakfast together, the risen Jesus takes Peter aside to untangle their relationship. Jesus begins the conversation by asking if Peter loves him more than the other disciples. As a response to Peter’s threefold protestations of his love, Jesus gives him three commands: Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep. This pastoral work will season Peter. He will show his love by nourishing and caring for Jesus’ followers, by taking responsibility for the well-being of the community. His duty is to keep sheep in the love that Jesus taught them, the love Jesus demonstrated in laying down his life for the flock. He is to feed, tend, and love the community, not lord it over the flock.

With whom do you need to have a reconciling, untangling conversation?

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Gospel Reflection for April 3, 2016, 2nd Sunday of Easter

31 Mar

Sunday Readings: Acts 5.12-16; Revelation 1.9-11, 12-13, 17-19; John 20.19-31

Jesus breathed on his disciples and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

(John 20.22-23)

Bible scholar Sandra Schneiders observes that the Greek word translated as retained above or sometimes bound more commonly means to hold fast, to embrace. She argues that Jesus is charging the community to hold fast the people they forgive. As a reconciling community, they are to embrace and support those they forgive, not to hold them bound to their sins.

“Jesus is the human face of God’s mercy,” Pope Francis writes in proclaiming the Jubilee Year of Mercy. This is our call in continuing Jesus’ mission — to be the human face of forgiveness and mercy among those in our lives.

Who holds you fast? How do you use your power to make peace?

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Gospel Reflection for March 27, 2016, Easter Sunday

21 Mar

Sunday Readings: Acts 10.34, 37-43; Colossians 3.1-4 or 1 Corinthians 5.6-8; John 20.1-9 (10-18)

Mary Magdelene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.”

(John 20.18)

The act of raising Jesus from the dead reveals who God is — the one who gives life. By accepting death, Jesus reveals that God’s power lies not in magic or military might but in love. Love is the power that gives life, especially its concrete forms such as forgiving, serving others, sharing. These are the powers death cannot defeat. These are the human actions that reveal God as people go out and beyond themselves.

Jesus’ resurrection calls us to trust ourselves to God at our own deaths as Jesus trusted God on the cross. Our Easter faith calls us to trust the life-giving Creator whose presence shows forth in all that is and the sustaining Spirit who holds us in being.

What affirms your faith in Jesus’ self-giving way of life?

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Gospel Reflection for March 20, 2016, Passion/Palm Sunday

14 Mar
Photo via Flickr user Thomas Hawk

Photo via Flickr user Thomas Hawk

Sunday Readings: Luke 19.28-40; Isaiah 50.4-7; Philippians 2.6-11; Luke 22.14-23.56

“Surely this was an innocent man.”

(Luke 23.47)

Luke’s passion account emphasizes Jesus’ innocence. When the crowd, the chief priests, and temple guard come to arrest Jesus, he says, “Am I a criminal that you come out after me armed with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you never raised a hand against me. But this is your hour — the triumph of darkness” (22.53-53).

Pilate and Herod can find no evidence of a crime. One of the criminals crucified with Jesus insists Jesus has done nothing wrong. The centurion who is at the cross as Jesus dies expresses Luke’s view, “Surely this man was innocent.”

Innocence is a powerful agent of change. The photo of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi found drowned along the Turkish coast went viral and raised awareness of the plight of immigrants fleeing the civil war in Syria. Turning the fire hoses on children in the Montgomery bus boycott stopped the violence. We cannot justify the violence to children that we do to other adults.

How does violence against the innocent affect you?

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