Gospel Reflection for May 2, 2021 – 5th Sunday of Easter

Sunday Readings: Acts 9.26-3; 1 John 3.18-24; John 15.1-8
Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.” – John 15.4
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. Jesus isn’t talking plants in his farewell conversations with his friends after the Last Supper. He is talking about how these disciples will continue to share friendship with him after he has returned to God. Their relationship will remain; its life-sharing energy will persist. Jesus’ words will keep working in us to transform us.
A vine is a great image of the Church. Its root is in Jesus Christ and its mission is to grow to the ends of Earth. Like his disciples, all of us who follow Jesus share the life of the vine. Our roots in Jesus’ life and love empower us to branch out and bear fruit where we live: to call others to faith in Jesus, to serve our families and communities, to make the small differences that build the common good. 
In what relationships do you abide? How do these relationships help you understand Jesus continuing presence with us?

Gospel Reflection for April 25, 2021 – 4th Sunday of Easter

Scripture 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 know me and I know the Father. I lay down my life for the sheep.” – John 10.14-15

Many of us live in close relationship with animals. We have met each others’ cats and heard their dogs on Zoom calls. What an amazing analogy in Sunday’s gospel that a shepherd’s’ relationships with their flocks is like Jesus’ relationship with his Father. My palomino quarter horse and I spent hours of my growing up years together. I still put myself to sleep at night remembering the roads and trails our rides together took us. Those rides opened the infinities of a prairie horizon and vast blue sky that connected me with God.

The scriptures of Israel frequently use shepherding as an image of God’s care for the people. God is the shepherd of Psalm 23. For early Christians and for us, the shepherd image expresses closeness with Jesus. Sunday’s gospel emphasizes the wholehearted love Jesus demonstrates in loving us unto death. Three times the short gospel passage repeats what makes a shepherd good–willingness to lay down one’s life for the sheep.

What appeals to you about the image of Jesus as the good shepherd? Who do you shepherd? For whom are you laying down your life?

Gospel Reflection for April 18, 2021 – 3rd Sunday of Easter

Sunday Readings: Acts 3.13-15,17-19; 1 John 2.1-5; Luke 24.35-48

The two disciples returned to Jerusalem and explained to the eleven and those gathered with them what had happened on the road to Emmaus and how Jesus was known to them in the breaking of bread. While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” But they were startled and terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost. Then Jesus said to them “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.” – Luke 24.36-39

Jesus crucifixion ends the story his disciples thought they were living by following him. His resurrection begins a new story. It is a new day of creation, an eighth day. Sunday’s gospel is the third of Luke’s Easter stories. The whole company of Jesus’ followers have assembled. The Eleven are there, including the amazed Peter, who went to see the tomb for himself after Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James reported their experience. The women are there, their report no longer an idle tale. In the midst of sharing their experience, Jesus appears, greeting the community with peace and stretching their capacity to take him his presence.

Our time also calls for recalibrating who God is. Many disaffiliate from institution religion, some because of Church scandals, other because doctrines seem antiquated. Some find fresh insights in evolution that God’s creative love unfolds in the cosmos dynamically from inanimate to living and conscious beings. God addresses us as much from the future as from the past, luring us toward all we can become.

When have you experience Jesus present in the midst of the Christian community with whom you open the scriptures and break bread? How Easter centered is the story that you tell about Jesus?

Bible Study on the Gospel of Mark

This summer and all through autumn, we hear stories from the Gospel of Mark at Sunday Eucharist. Sister Joan shows how the Sunday excerpts fit into the whole story of Jesus’ life and ministry. The 11 short chapters and the questions make this book ideal for bible study and faith-sharing groups.

Click here to read the Table of Contents and sample chapters. Order at goodgroundpress.com or call 800-232-5533. Only $10.00 per book.

When you call to order Mark’s Gospel: The Whole Story treat yourself to another of our books. Some are ready-made for group sharing. Others might be the just the thing you or a loved one need at this time. Our beautiful flower cards make a nice Mother’s Day gift. Order online at goodgroundpress.com.

Gospel Reflection for April 11, 2021 – 2nd Sunday of Easter

Sunday Readings: Acts 4.32-35; 1 John 5.1-6; John 20.19-31

Jesus said to the disciples, “Peace be to you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” He breathed on them, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven them; if you hold them bound, they are held bound.” – John 20. 21-23

On Easter evening the risen Jesus enters the disciples’ midst with two gifts — peace and new life. The sight of Jesus and his greeting of peace bring the community joy. These first disciples find the risen Jesus with them as Christians do to this day when they gather in his name.

Jesus breathes the new life of the Spirit upon his disciples. The peace and forgiveness the risen Jesus brings the community become their commission. Jesus sends his followers to make the lives of others whole as he has made their lives whole. He awakens their capacity to forgive each other as he has forgiven them. Jesus insists that what they forgive is forgiven but what people hold stays held, continuing to fester and irritate in the community. Jesus’ Easter commission is to work through hurts and harm and hold one another in joyful, life-giving community.

The gospel writers write to hand on to future generations the testimony of the earliest believers. The God who creates is the God who comes among us in Jesus to save, heal, forgive, and make whole.

When have you experienced Jesus’ peace and presence? When have you found new life in forgiving or being forgiven?

Gospel Reflection for April 4, 2021 – Easter Sunday

Scripture Readings: Acts 20.34, 37-43; Colossians 3.1-4; John 20.1-9

“While it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away, so she ran off to Simon, Peter, and the beloved disciple and told them.” – John 20.1-2

Our world is global now.  Our story of creation is much longer and more involved than Genesis describes, a process that unfurls over 13.7 billion years and continues today.  Theologian John Haught suggests, “We should no longer think of God having a plan but instead a vision that aims at bringing into being a community of love.”  It calls us to participate in co-creating with God. 

We recognize we live in and because of God’s generous creativity; we see Jesus’ death as the profound self-giving love at the heart of the universe.  We see Jesus’ act of self-giving as life-giving, as gift, as grace and vision and power for becoming a community of love.  We recognize the Holy Spirit endows us in Jesus with the capacity to transcend ourselves and become more than we can imagine. We recognize the Spirit endows the whole universe with the capacity to transcend itself toward ever new forms.

Mary Magdalene sets in motion the Easter gospel when she goes to the garden to visit Jesus’ tomb.  The time is the dawn of a new and unending day.  Death proves not the end for Jesus though fear, cruelty, power, and violence have had their way with him as they have had their way in our world today.  The One who begins life and sustains life raises Jesus from the dead to new life—alleluia.

Mary Magdalene runs to bring Peter and the Beloved Disciple to the empty tomb.  The Beloved Disciple, who is deliberately not named so we can all identify ourselves as beloved disciples, enters the empty tomb, sees, and believes.  This Easter gospel calls us to come, see, and believe God’s glory revealed in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, the vision and promise of our own life with God.

Easter testifies to the power of God’s love 

Jesus’ resurrection testifies to the impossible coming to be

Every dawn testifies to the giver of our lives, the Holy Spirit,

Calling us into song like the birds, 

Calling us into deeper roots like the bulbs

Calling us with Gerard Manley Hopkins to recognize Easter is a verb,

What Jesus has done for us we must do for one another

Welcome Christ to easter in us,

To weave with our love each day a community of love in our world.

What new life will you keep on cultivating in the Easter season?

Gospel Reflection for March 28, 2021 – Palm/Passion Sunday

Scripture Readings: Mark 11.1-10; Isaiah 50.4-7; Philippians 2.6-11; Mark 14.1-15.47

“Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” – Mark 11.9

“When it was noon, a darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mark 15.33-34

At every Eucharist we worshippers pray the same ”Holy, Holy, Holy” the people shout in welcoming Jesus to Jerusalem. Jesus is the one who comes in the name of the Holy One and inherits God’s promises to David. He is the messiah, who comes not in military victory but in peace, riding humbly on a colt. In the liturgy of Palm Sunday the welcome turns quickly toward the passion.

In Mark’s narration of Jesus’ passion, most of his disciples flee. Judas betrays Jesus to the officials who want his movement stopped. Peter denies knowing Jesus as he hangs out in the High Priest’s courtyard during the very time the officials condemn Jesus for blasphemy inside the High Priest’s house. Jesus speaks few words as he endures flogging, mocking, and then crucifixion. As he is dying on the cross, Jesus prays from Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” We feel his desolation.

Jesus is not alone as he dies on the cross. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, Salome, and many other women disciples stand with him at a distance. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses witness his burial.

The passion leaves us in desolation and loss. Who are we like — the betrayer? The officials who want to stop Jesus threatening their authority? Simon of Cyrene recruited to carry Jesus’ cross? The disciples who flee? Peter who denies that he knows his friend? The women who stand with Jesus at the cross but cannot ease his suffering and anguish? The centurion whose comment, “Truly this man is the Son of God,” could be faith or could be cynical like the bystanders’ comments? Joseph of Arimathea, who shows up to bury Jesus?

In whom do you see yourself in Jesus’ passion narrative?

Gospel Reflection for March 21, 2021 – 5th Sunday of Lent

Sunday Readings: Jeremiah 31.31-34; Hebrews 5.6-7; John 12.20-33
The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Unless the grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain. But if it dies, it will bear much fruit….If people want to serve me, let them follow me. Where I am, there also my servants will be. Those who serve me the Father will honor. Now, my soul is troubled, yet what should I say — Father, save me from this hour? I have come for this hour: Father, glorify your name. – John 12. 23-26
The gospel writer John deliberately places the grain of wheat saying between two events — the raising of Lazarus and Jesus’ washing of his disciples’ feet. For John the hour of Jesus’ death is the moment when God will glorify his name. A dynamic process begins, a passing over, a planting that will bear fruit a hundredfold. In being lifted up — first on the cross and ultimately from the tomb — Jesus will draw all people to himself. In death Jesus entrusts his life to God, the same life-giving Creator that hides the promise of new life in seeds and promises new life for us.

John’s gospel couples the grain of wheat saying with sayings about discipleship that call us to plant ourselves in the Christian community and follow Jesus by serving others. “Where I am, there my servants must be,” Jesus says. At the last supper in this gospel, Jesus does the work of a household slave when he washes his disciples’ feet. His footwashing gives his followers an example of how to treat one another.
What promise does God hold for you? How do you respond to Jesus washing his disciples’ feet at his last supper?

Gospel Reflection for March 14, 2021 – 4th Sunday of Lent

Sunday Readings: 2 Chronicles 36.14-16, 19-23; Ephesians 2.4-10; John 3.14-21
“For God so loved the world that God gave God’s only begotten Son that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have life forever. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world but so the world might be saved through him” – John 3.16
Jesus’ mission is not to condemn the world but to save it. He calls us who believe in him to live in the light, to act for all to see. Jesus calls us not to become accustomed to the harsh realities of our world like racial injustice, militarized police, ethnic cleansing, refugees, workers without jobs and health coverage. We cannot take the daily condemnation and crucifixion of millions of our fellow humans for granted.

But we can leave our destructive deeds and surly attitudes behind and see in the light of Jesus’ self-giving love. We can begin to see God’s kin*dom in our midst and live the new life Jesus brings. We can do our part to take broken and suffering human beings down from the cross.
Who can I or we take down from their crosses? Whose sorrow and pain can we help nurse? Who can you help recover from the losses of Covid-19?

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