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Gospel Reflection for June 19, 2016, 12th Sunday Ordinary Time

14 Jun
Photo via Flickr user Ian Britton

Photo via Flickr user Ian Britton

Sunday Readings: Zechariah 12.10-11, 13.1; Galatians 3.26-29; Luke 9.18-24

“But you — who do you say that I am?”

(Matthew 9.20)

Immediately after Peter answers Jesus’ question, “The Messiah of God,” Jesus predicts his suffering, rejection, and death. His prediction contradicts the popular notion of the leader Israel awaits. To his early followers Jesus’ call to take up the cross and follow him is also daunting. The cross is the Roman Empire instrument of public torture, the electric chair of its day. For us today the cross is a revered symbol which inspires reverence more than fear. Yet, like the earlier Christians, we seek to understand what Jesus asks of us. He lays out three conditions of discipleship: deny yourself, take up the cross daily, and follow me. To follow Jesus means orienting ourselves toward others in our daily lives and standing for what is right and just in public life and anchor our hopes in Jesus’ way.

How developed is your habit of thinking of others and of God before yourself? From whom have you learned compassion?

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Finish coloring in your Lenten cross!

17 Mar
Click on the image to download your Lenten cross.

Click on the image to download your Lenten cross.

These are the last suggestions for your Lenten cross.

PLANT

  • Plant heirloom or organic seeds.
  • Start annuals from seed instead of buying flats at the greenhouse.

SIMPLIFY

  • Sort through your clothes and shoes. Donate what you don’t need.
  • Minimize the electricity you use for a day. Eat by candlelight.

PRAY

  • Count your blessings. Develop a habit of recognizing ten a day.
  • Pray for an enemy.

READ

  • Read Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, about her family’s experience of raising their own food for a year.
  • The Year of Mercy continues until November 20. Read Matthew 25.31-46. Go to goodgroundpress.com for a list of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

FAMILY AND FRIENDS

  • Tell friends and family ways they matter to you.
  • Make family meals or meals with friends a priority. Eat and talk together.

PARTICIPATE

  • Join or start a faith-sharing group or bible study.
  • Participate as a family in a local spring clean-up.

Lent Is A Time To Shine

18 Feb
Lentcrossweek3

Click on the image to download your Lenten cross.

The light of God showing through Jesus bedazzles his disciples in Sunday’s gospel of the Transfiguration, giving us a glimpse of Easter early in Lent. The Transfiguration calls us to our Lenten transformation into Christ, to shine with love of every neighbor.

Spring also calls us to the new life of Easter. Sunlight blesses us daily with vitamin D as it warms Earth. Trees and plants awaken for their invisible daily miracle of transforming sunlight into the air we breathe.

Let us praise God for all the warmth others spread in our lives — the lady who let us ahead in the supermarket line, the man who holds the door open, the baby who giggles at us over his mother’s shoulder. Like air and light these nearly invisible small acts shine and warm our community. We have lie as a gift from God to share in love.

If you have downloaded our Lenten cross, the following are suggestions for coloring it in. It’s not too late to start this activity with your family.

PLANT

When you do one of these activities, color a space marked 1 on your Lenten cross green.

  • Plant a tree.
  • Plant grasses and flowers on your boulevard or in your yard. A patch of prairie provides seeds for birds.

SIMPLIFY

When you do one of these activities, color a space marked 2 on your Lenten cross yellow.

  • Try a vegetarian food or recipe this week.
  • Clean unneeded clothes and shoes out of your closet. Donate what is good.

PRAY

When you do one of these activities, color a space marked 3 on your Lenten cross purple.

  • Take time for silence. Breathe in, saying, “Spirit of God with me.” Breathe out, saying, “Spirit of Love in me.”
  • Begin a family meal by having each person state a hope for the whole human family.

READ

When you do one of these activities, color a space marked 4 on your Lenten cross blue.

  • Visit the Half the Sky movement to read about their initiatives to end human trafficking.
  • Read Matthew 25.31-46 to find out where we can find Jesus any day.

FAMILY and FRIENDS

When you do one of these activities, color a space marked 5 on your Lenten cross red.

  • Give up a grudge, an imagined enemy, or an old hurt. Pursue happiness.
  • Call or email your oldest friend to say thanks for years of love and loyalty.

PARTICIPATE

When you do one of these activities, color a space marked 6 on your Lenten cross orange.

  • Volunteer to tutor kids or help people with groceries.
  • Imagine celebrating your next birthday by asking your friends to join you in a project that serves others, such as volunteering at a soup kitchen. Start planning.

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

 

 

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 November 1, 2015, All Saints Day

26 Oct

Sunday Readings: Revelation 7.2-4, 9-14; 1 John 3.1-3; Matthew 5.1-12

“Blessed are the poor in spirit; the kingdom of God is theirs.”

(Matthew 5.3)

When people identify the central message of Christianity, they will say loving God and neighbor or following the ten commandments. Rarely does anyone’s first response refer to the beatitudes. The thou-shalts and shalt-nots of the commandments are familiar. These actions break and erode the relationships that bind us together as the people of God.

Discerning what it means to be poor in spirit, sorrowful, merciful, pure of heart, peacemaking require more reflection. The beatitudes expand what the commandments to love God and neighbor ask of us. They challenge us to saintly living, so it makes sense to hear them as the gospel on the feast of All Saints.

Whom do you bless with your loving actions? Who blesses you?

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Year of Mercy

10 Sep

JubileePoster

Corporal Works of Mercy are those that tend to bodily needs of others. In Matthew 25:34-40, Jesus tells his followers they will be judged on six specific works of mercy, the first six below.  The last work of mercy, burying the dead, comes from the Book of Tobit.[3][4]

To feed the hungry.
To give drink to the thirsty.
To clothe the naked.
To shelter the homeless.
To visit the sick.
To visit the imprisoned.
To bury the dead.

The Spiritual Works of Mercy relieve spiritual suffering. They come to us from Tradition.

To instruct the ignorant.
To counsel the doubtful.
To admonish sinners.
To bear wrongs patiently.
To forgive offenses willingly.
To comfort the afflicted.
To pray for the living and the dead.

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?

If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
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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?

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