Gospel Reflection for April 19, 2020 – 2nd Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings Acts 1.42-47, 1 Peter 1.3-9; John 20.19-31

On the evening of the first day of the week, even though the disciples had locked the doors of the place where they were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood before them. “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven them; if you hold them bound, they are held bound.” – John 20.19-23

In Sunday’s gospel the risen Jesus disturbs and reinvigorates a community of disciples locked in fear and teetering between old and new, failure and future. Jesus wishes peace to these fearful disciples who deserted and denied him in his suffering. He breathes Spirit into them and sends them to carry on his mission. He forgives them and authorizes them to become a reconciling community. What Jesus does for his disciples he entrusts them and us to do for others.

Who among us in the midst of sheltering at home and wearing masks to get groceries doesn’t feel locked in fear, perhaps fear of getting COVID-19 or anxiety about how our nation and world will rebound from the screeching halt of commerce. The risen Jesus whom these first men and women disciples meet breathes his Spirit into them and sends them to continue his mission. Get over yourselves and put your faith and love into action.

The future will undoubtedly bring the greatest hardships and losses to the least among us. Congress will pass funding to help. Charities will continue their work. We can join the work and each of us can reach out with funds and friendship to those who need resurrection in their individual lives and families.

May our faith and love in action transform us into people others see and believe in Jesus.

What new life and mission is the Spirit breathing into you?

Don’t stop with Easter Sunday

The Sundays after Easter give us time to let Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection sink into our own lives. The Gospels for these weeks are full of Jesus’ loving farewell advice. The other scripture readings, from the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of Peter, tell the story of how Jesus’ followers learn to live with his absence and his real presence.

Treat yourself to these eight Easter issues of Sunday by Sunday for a special price of only $4.00 per person. Give a gift subscription to the newly-baptized in your parish. Call Lacy at 800-232-5533 to place your order or order online at goodgroundpress.com.

Gospel Reflection for April 12, 2020, Easter Sunday

Scripture Readings: Acts 10.34,37-43; Colossians 3.1-4; John 20.1-9

“Then the disciple who had arrived at the tomb first went in. He saw and believed.” – John 20.9

Mary Magdalene went to the other disciples and announced, “I have seen the Lord.” – John 20-18

The action words seeing and staying express relationships in John’s gospel. On Easter Sunday and its octave, we hear the good news of Jesus’ resurrection from John 20. Three disciples come to Jesus’ tomb and see it empty. Only one sees more deeply and only one stays to grieve.

Mary Magdalene comes first at dawn, finds the tomb open and empty. She suspects Jesus’ body has been stolen. She runs to get Peter and the beloved disciple, and the three hurry to the tomb. The beloved disciple sees the body wrappings and the empty burial place and believes. His seeing becomes the deeper insight that is faith in his friend.

Peter and the beloved disciple return to the company of Jesus’ followers, but Mary Magdalene stays. She remains, weeps, grieving the loss of her teacher. Significantly this scene takes place in a garden like the one where God created the first humans and walked with them. Easter is a new day of creation

Angels ask Mary Magdalene why she weeps. She turns and explains that she doesn’t know where the body is. Then a gardener asks why she weeps and who she is looking for. Again she asks where the body is. Her focus is on the past. But when the gardener speaks her name, “Mary,” Mary Magdalene turns again, now recognizing Jesus’ voice and answers, “Rabbouni, Teacher.” She has stayed with her grief but in meeting Jesus she turns toward the future.

“Go to my brothers and sisters,” Jesus commissions her, “and say to them I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Mary Magdalene is the first to encounter Jesus risen. She becomes the apostle to the other apostles, goes, and tells them the good news, “I have seen the Lord” and how their relationships with Jesus will last.

With which disciple do you most identify? Who responds the way you would—Mary Magdalene, Peter, or the beloved disciple? Where or when have you experienced Jesus present?

Give your teen the gift of prayer — SPIRIT 4 Teens

The Spirit Prayer Journal contains classic prayers from scripture and other religious traditions. Plenty of room and inspiration for journaling on all life’s big questions. Give your teens these journals to record their feelings and hopes during our time sheltering in place. View sample prayers at goodgroundpress.com. You can order online or by calling 800-232-5533. 1 – 20 copies: $3.75; 20 – 99 copies: $3.25; 100 + copies: $3.00.

Give your teen the gift of prayer — SPIRIT 4 Teens

Host a Passover Meal Online

The meal Jesus shares with his disciples the night before he dies celebrates Passover, a feast remembering Israel’s escape from slavery in Egypt and journey to freedom in the Promised Land. In the Christian tradition the Holy Thursday Eucharist we share celebrates Jesus’ gift of himself to us and his model of service in washing his friends’ feet.

The Spirit Freedom Supper offers a framework for an online prayer service with teens. Zoom and Hangouts offer ways for online groups to meet. Young people can take turns praying the prayers. To conclude, talk about how this night sheltering in place in 2020 is different than other nights and instead of blessing hands for service, invite prayers for family and friends who are sick, vulnerable, or on the front lines in health care.

Gospel Reflection for April 5, 2020, Palm/Passion Sunday

Scripture Readings: Matthew 21.1-11; Isaiah 50.4-7; Philippians 2.6-22; Matthew 26.14—27.66 or 27.11-54

“Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’Matthew 27.46

 It’s Holy Week for Christians. Palm Sunday remembers how enthusiastically people welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem, where he begins to teach in the temple courts. Christians today remember processions with palms outside our churches, even around the block on this Sunday. But we remember also holding our palms and standing for the longest gospel reading of the year—Jesus’ passion.

In this year of the quarantine we cannot gather, remember, and celebrate Jesus’ last supper with his friends on Holy Thursday or pray for the world on Good Friday as we remember Jesus’ passion, crucifixion, death, and burial. We will not be able to hunker down together in darkness, each holding candles, to remember our holy history from the creation of the heavens and the Earth through Jesus’ resurrection (Holy Saturday).

Instead it is a time to hunker down at home with family or with those who are home to us, find a New Testament and look up the readings for these most memorable feast days. Or, go to goodgroundress.com and look up Sunday by Sunday for Palm/Passion Sunday. Read the gospels especially (see citations above) and recall memories of these special days—the songs, the symbols, the meanings family and others have expressed through the years. Be creative. Find last year’s palms. What symbols of the Holy Week events do you keep in your home or apartment or pocket?

The events of Jesus’ passion test and manifest his love for God, for the world, for his friends, and for the community that still gathers in his name. Jesus endures not only the pain and shame of crucifixion but one friend’s betrayal, another’s denial, and God’s seeming abandonment. Those who witness the full outpouring of Jesus’ love in his life and in his death come to share his commitment to self-giving. Jesus’ self-giving death and life-giving resurrection reveal love as the creative power at the heart of all that is.

What in your life has demanded more than you thought you had to give? What has Jesus’ passion meant to you? When have you found Jesus with you in times of betrayal or suffering or seeming abandonment?

Gospel Reflection for March 29, 2020, 5th Sunday of Lent

Sunday Readings: Ezekiel 37.12-14; Romans 8.8-11; John 11.1-45

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would never have died. Even now I am sure that God will give you whatever you ask,” said Martha.
“Your brother will rise again,” said Jesus.
“I know he will rise again on the last day,” said Martha.
“I am the resurrection and the life: whoever believes in me, though they die, will come to life; and whoever is alive and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
“Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that you are the messiah, the Son of God; he who is to come into the world.”
– John 11.21-27

Like Martha and Mary in Sunday’s gospel we inevitably stand at the graves of those we love. Perhaps it is misting as it was when we stood at my mother’s grave and each shoveled dirt into the place of her resting. It was October. This final family act of love seemed like a fall planting for an as yet uncertain spring.

In our uncertain spring the virus sweeping the globe unites to protect us all and flatten the curve of those who die. Graphs project the effects of our distancing in the news. For those with family in senior homes distance pains. Hands that touch and soothe could infect, so we do love through a window and on the phone. We see how essential are our health workers, grocery clerks, and truckers are. We experience our shared humanity.

Jesus grieves in Sunday’s gospel for three people he loves. He stands with Martha and Mary not only at their brother’s grave but at his own. Raising Lazarus sets in motion his arrest and passion. None of us knows what lies beyond death. We have only our experience of God in our lives and in our holy history to go on. Henry Nouwen compares dying to the trust between trapeze artists. One lets go, trusting the other will catch him or her.

As believers we are companion in hope that the God who creates and sustains the world will raise us up. We live in promise. We walk with Jesus, who did not sidestep death but trust the God he experienced beloving and inspiriting him; he gave himself in human unknowing.

How does creation speak to you about who God is? How does the awakening Earth affect you?

Prayer

God of us all, let us take heart in your loving creativity,
unfolding in the infinity of stars,
in the sun warming and awakening our winter-worn world.
Let us treasure the breaths that pulse with life in our veins,
imagine a world where no one spits on another.

High Sierra Moment

High Sierra Moment

The Tohee
meanders a meadow
home in its grasses
to purple perstemmen,
blue lupin, orange puccoon,
yellow-eyed daisies

mirrors at its wide bend
gray granite mountains,
tamed by distance
but exacting rigor
for every step higher
every broader view

I watch
the mountain water flow—
so incredibly clear,
lucid almost,
as conscious
as purpose grasped,
as transparent
as every brown, beige, taupe, copper, ivory
pebble in its deep

and
slip silently
inexorably on

my heart stays put
at the foot bridge
lifts with a breeze
to push upstream yet,
spirit as unbounded
as the whole

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