Gospel Reflection for April 10, 2022 – Palm/Passion Sunday

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

One of the criminals hanging in crucifixion blasphemed Jesus, saying, “Aren’t you the Messiah? Then save yourself and us.” The other, however, rebuking him, said, “Have you no fear of God, seeing you are under the same sentence? We deserve this, after all. We are only paying the price for what we’ve done, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you enter into your reign.” Jesus replied, “I assure you, this day you will be with me in paradise.”  

Pilate, the good thief, and the centurion guard at the cross all agree that Jesus is innocent. Pilate regards the accusations against Jesus as baseless; four times Pilate repeats his judgment. Many people welcome Jesus to Jerusalem. Shortly after arriving, he chases the sellers out of the temple area, antagonizing temple officials. Jesus’ teaching in the temple courts proves spellbinding for many and worrisome to the leaders. They find in Judas the way to find and arrest Jesus.  

The chief priests, elders, and scribes bring Jesus before their assembly. On trial the officials want to know if Jesus is the Messiah. “Are you the Son of God?” they ask. Jesus answers, “You say that I am.” The officials condemn him by these words. They take Jesus before Pilate, who has power to sentence him to death. Pilate can see no crime but gives in to the crowd that press for crucifixion.

For the gospel writer Luke, Jesus is innocent, humble leader. He teaches his followers not to imitate those who lord or lady it over others but to seek a different kind of greatness as he says, “I am among you as one who serves.”

Innocence is a powerful agent of change. The bodies of civilians, including children, in the streets of Ukrainian cities stirs the world community. The cries of children separated from their parents at the U.S./Mexican border awakened citizens to the immigration issues more than the plight of adults. Turning the fire hoses on children in Montgomery had the same power during the struggle for Civil Rights. The violence we can justify toward one another we cannot justify doing to children.

For Christians Jesus’ undeserved suffering and death are redemptive. 

How does violence against the innocent affect you? What leaders have disillusioned you? Who models service?

Luke Class Resumes

Beginning next week, Thursday, April 7, we take up the passion of Jesus in Luke’s gospel. The following three Thursdays – April 14, 21, and 28 – center on the Easter narratives in all four Gospels and the stories of women in the Acts of the Apostles. If you were part of the Luke class in January and February you will automatically receive a zoom link. The class will meet from 11:00 to 12:30 central daylight time.

Learn more about Sister Joan’s Luke class here. Anyone new who wishes to join the class for these final four classes, please call 800-232-5533 and let Lacy know. She will send the zoom link to you also.

We are looking forward to sharing our faith and understanding for these four weeks. Thank you for being a part of the class.

Gospel Reflection for April 3, 2022 – 5th Sunday Ordinary Time

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 43.16-21; Philippians 3.8-14; John 8.1-8

The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. In the law, Moses commanded such women to be stoned. What do you have to say about the case?”   . . . When they persisted in their questioning, Jesus stood up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin cast the first stone at her” (John 8.3, 5, 7).

Sunday’s gospel fits the #MeToo movement. Unwanted sexual advances are what #MeToo aims to stop, employment cultures in which bosses expect sexual favors or flavor the office with their advances. Today no means no. The #MeToo movement has led many women to tell their stories of sexual assault and rape in an effort to end them.

The gospel story is not about the woman dragged and humiliated before this impromptu tribunal — not until the end. She endures public shame among the crowds in the temple courtyards until the men who accuse her slink away. When Jesus turns to the woman and their encounter begins, he assures her he is not one of her accusers. Perhaps she recovers a little dignity as he speaks to her respectfully. He empathizes with her, caught and shamed in a trap set for him. Jesus does not judge her but challenges her to sin no more. He treats her as a person with the power to choose and act.

By standing with her, Jesus counters those who make her a spectacle. But what about the crowd? What can the woman do to find belonging in the community again? Can she go back to her husband? Her children? What will neighbors say who know her probable guilt? Accepting the person requires remembering our own experiences of feeling hurt and shame and putting our stones away.

What do you think the woman would say if she had voice in the scene? How do you treat those you must forgive? How have you been treated when you needed forgiveness?

March 27, 2022 – 4th Sunday of Lent

Joshua 5.9, 10-12; 2 Corinthians 5.17-21; Luke 15.1-3, 11-32

“Child, you are with me always, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice! This brother of yours was dead and lives again. He was lost and is found” (Luke 15.31-32).

Which son is lost? The one who cuts his family ties, parties away his inheritance, and in a famine finds himself a starving servant at a hog trough, forbidden to eat the sweet pods he feeds the pigs. The younger son bottoms out at the pig trough, changes his mind and heart, and turns back to his family. His self-centered lifestyle has starved him into recognizing he needs sustaining relationships. The pig trough turns out to be a holy place. The younger son confesses he has sinned against God and his father, who restores him as a son with robe, ring, and sandals and sets a homecoming table for him. This son was lost but has been found.

So who is lost? The father has to seek out and beg the older son to come in to the party. But the older son is stuck in anger that his brother gets more for repenting than he gets for obeying diligently. The father isn’t fair; he’s merciful. The younger son doesn’t get the punishment the older son thinks he deserves for “devouring his father’s property.” The father’s mercy angers the older son. It reminds us we can’t earn or deserve God’s love. It’s a gift that reveals who God is.

In this parable Jesus is addressing the scribes and Pharisees who criticize him for welcoming and eating with sinners. The parable invites them to the sinners’ homecoming dinner. Will they come? Will the older son? Will we?

Where have the pig troughs in your life been—the holy places where consequences have revealed the emptiness of a job, a habit, a relationship?

Feast of the Annunciation

Today is the Feast of the Annunciation. To celebrate, we are posting a reflection by Sister Joan. Mary’s yes, your yes, the yes from the cosmos is all part of being in God. Blessings on your day.

Gospel Reflection for March 20, 2022 – 3rd Sunday of Lent

Sunday Readings: Exodus 3.1-8, 13-15, 1 Corinthians 10.1-6, 10-12, Luke 13.1-9

Jesus spoke this parable. A man had a fig tree that had been planted in his vineyard. He came looking for fruit on it but found none. He said to the gardener: “Look here! For three years now I have come looking for figs on this tree and found none. Cut it down. Why should it take up space?” The gardener said, “Sir, leave it one more year while I hoe around it and manure it. Perhaps then it will bear figs. If not, it shall be cut down” (Luke 13.6-9).

The gospel parable emphasizes mercy, growth, turning toward God. The gardener argues for fertilizing the tree another year. Who likes to cut down a tree? If we think of the gardener as God, then God is nurturing, caring more about another chance for the tree to bear fruit than about threatening to cut it down. If we think of the tree as ourselves or our children, who doesn’t need or won’t give another chance to grow?

A friend enjoys getting older and observes, “I’m not right as much as I used to be.” Our daily interactions cultivate conversion. Like the gardener we nourish and encourage one another. Listening to others can cultivate the fruit of compassion or courage or insight. Other believers may freshen our commitments. As humans, we have the gifts of mind and heart to discern what Jesus asks of us.

In what ways are you like the owner of the fig tree? In what ways like the gardener? What questions or doubts about God’s compassion are you living with?

Gospel Reflection for March 13, 2022 – 2nd Sunday of Lent

Mount Tabor is the traditional site of the transfiguration.

Sunday Readings: Genesis 15.5-12, 17-18, Philippians 3.17—4.1, Luke 9.28-3

Jesus took Peter, John and James and went up the mountain to pray. While he was praying, his face changed in appearance and his clothes became dazzling white. Two men were talking with him — Moses and Elijah. Appearing in glory, they spoke of his exodus which he was about to fulfill in Jerusalem (Luke 9.28-31).

His prayer on the mount of transfiguration is a turning point in Jesus’ ministry. A few verses later Jesus “sets his face for Jerusalem” (9.51). This gospel calls us to set our sights toward Easter, to enter more deeply the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection, which transforms us still. Luke calls us to prayer — to take time as Jesus does in his 40 days in the wilderness to integrate the Spirit’s urgings into our lives. Jesus prays outdoors on mountains, in deserted spots, in the darkness of night. He seizes moments of reflection in the created world — where heights lay open possibilities in every direction or the night shelters his struggle. On the mount of transfiguration Jesus models the transforming power of prayer in finding one’s way and facing struggles.

This iconic gospel places Jesus with the two prophets in Israel’s history who have interacted most intimately with God. Like the lawgiver Moses, who led an exodus from slavery to freedom, Jesus leads an exodus from death to new life and teaches his new law of love. Like the prophet Elijah, Jesus will confront the officials of empire and temple after his prayer in the silent stillness of a mountaintop. Peter, James, and John follow Jesus in this line of prophets.

How are your God moments a source of hope for you? What spiritual experience has transformed you and stuck with you as a deep anchor in your being?

What Tempts Us?

What Tempts Us? At Sunday Eucharist today we hear the story of Jesus’ temptations. We share with you a video reflection by Sister Joan. Enjoy it. Pass it on to a friend. Our prayers are with you. Please remember us in yours.

Gospel Reflection for March 6, 2022 – 1st Sunday of Lent

Scripture Readings: Deuteronomy 26.4-10; Romans 10.8-13; Luke 4.1-13

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for 40 days, where he was tempted by the devil.  During that time Jesus ate nothing, and by the end he was hungry. – Luke 4.1-2

In their theological duel Jesus and his tempter express very different interpretations of the role and mission of the messiah. Jesus refuses to be a messiah magician who turns stones to bread. Jesus recognizes that our relationships with others and with God nourish us as surely as food does. Jesus nourishes us, ultimately, by pouring out his love and life for us in meals, miracles, and the cross.

By which of God’s words do you live?

The devil’s second temptation envisions Jesus as the world ruler many people expected the messiah to be. Instead, Jesus chose to live Israel’s first and greatest commandment–to worship God alone (Deuteronomy 6.13). Jesus chose not to worship power or plenty but to come among us to serve the least. Too easily we become cynical spectators in a world gone awry instead of creative participants whose love for others and work for justice join in making Earth a global neighborhood.

What change does serving God alone ask of you this Lent?

Third, the devil mocks the poetry of Psalm 91.11-12, which describes God as protective, bearing up the faithful person to protect him or her from stumbling upon a stone. The devil mocks God’s intimate caring for Israel and for Jesus, God’s Son. God Almighty is an image that leads to unbelief for many. Reasoning goes if God is all-powerful, why doesn’t God use the power to end war or violence or suffering. People taunted Jesus on the cross with the same jibes.

What tests your faith in God?

Solitude in a beautiful place restores one’s connectedness with God as Creator and with the Spirit in whom we live and move and have our being. The wilderness is about integrating the self, restoring the heart to awe and praise, sighting again on the horizon one’s own deepest purpose in life.

What experiences of solitude have restored you to awe, praise, and purpose?

Gospel Reflection for February 27, 2022 – 8th Sunday Ordinary Time

Sunday Readings: Sirach 27.4-7; 1 Corinthians 15.54-58; Luke 6.39-45

Why do you see a splinter in your neighbor’s eye but not notice the beam in your own? How can you say to your neighbor, “Let me take the splinter out of your eye” when you yourself do not see the beam in your own? Hypocrite, first, take the beam out of your own eye; then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your neighbor’s eye.” – Luke 6.41-42

Jesus’ sayings in Sunday’s gospel give us a collection of proverbs. Students are not greater than their teachers. Don’t try to take a speck from your neighbor’s eye when you don’t see the beam in your own. A good tree produces good fruit. These sayings which Luke includes in Jesus’ sermon on the plain are bits of folk wisdom.

Proverbs are usually short. Usually proverbs have a rhyme, a vivid image, or a twist of phrase that makes them easy to remember. They use familiar and down-to-earth imagery such as early birds and worms that make their wisdom accessible to all.

The splinter and a beam images call us to take a serious, second look at ourselves. The Greek word dokos refers to the beams to which carpenters attach rafters and studs in the whole support structure of a house. The contrast between the splinter and the beam is not only between tiny and immense, but also between a single speck and a fault underlying a whole system of behavior.

The splinter and beam images exaggerate the difference between the one, small thing one sees in the neighbor and whole, huge, deeply-rooted faults one can’t see in one’s self. This is a good-humored proverb that makes the same point as Scottish poet Robert Burn’s famous poem “To a Louse,” which ends with a louse crawling up the back of a lady’s hair in church and the poet’s observation, “Ah, to see ourselves as others see us.” Criticizing others invites their scrutiny in return.

What proverbs do you live by? What proverbs have inspired you to take a second look at yourself? 

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