Tag Archives: community

Gospel Reflection for August 28, 2016, 22nd Sunday Ordinary Time

23 Aug
Photo via Flickr user Stijn Nieuwendijk

Photo via Flickr user Stijn Nieuwendijk

Sunday Readings: Sirach 3.17-18, 20, 28-29; Hebrews 12.18-19, 22-24; Luke 14.1, 7-14

“When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. You will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.”

(Luke 14.12-13)

Jesus’ two healings on the Sabbath demonstrate God’s will for human beings. We read neither story among the Sunday gospels. Jesus straightens up a woman who for 18 years has been bent over in Luke 13.10-17 and heals a moan with dropsy (14.2-6). He restores them to praise and worship rather than leaving them among the forgotten whom God supposedly punishes. In his advice for making guest lists, Jesus prefers those who cannot repay their hosts with a return invitation and place of honor at their tables. Jesus wants us to widen the circle of those who eat at our tables to include people like the two he has just healed. He wants our guest lists to distribute food justly rather than cut people off as chronically inferior, deserving distance from us rather than place among us.

What places of honor might you give up? What would you lose or gain? Who might you add to your guest list? What would you lose or gain?

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Neighbors on the Path

19 Aug

It isn’t a new lesson, but it is one I have to keep revisiting. The Good Samaritan. One man in Jesus’ parable saw the humanity of the man on the side of the road naked and broken. One man stopped. One man did what it took to ensure the victim’s full restoration. It seems so elementary, but I have so much trouble following his example.

Jesus tells this parable to a man trying to find a loophole and get around the law. When he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds, with the story of the good Samaritan, essentially saying, “Your neighbor is anyone who has been put in your path.”

We, too, are challenged by Jesus’ ministry and this parable specifically to see the humanity of all people put in our path. We are called to stop, let others change our plans, let the urgency of restoration work shape our days.

It is no easy calling. Jesus is asking us to get our hands dirty. He is asking us to move into the heart of conflict. This may risk our reputation, our schedule, and the ease of our known lives. It is often our busyness, our vanity and our fear of conflict that holds us back from acting like Jesus and the good Samaritan. I am guilty of all three, so I must revisit this parable again and again.

Really knowing our neighbors, the people in our path, requires seeing and stopping. That is often the hardest part. If we do engage with unexpected neighbors, like the good Samaritan did, like Jesus did, then we are often filled with the compassion necessary to move toward creative and effective reconciliation work. So this week, yet again, I pray for the courage to be open and willing to fully engage with all of my neighbors.

Gospel Reflection for August 14, 2016, 19th Sunday Ordinary Time

9 Aug

Sunday Readings: Jeremiah 38.4-6, 8-10; Hebrews 12.1-4; Luke 12.49-53

“I came to bring fire to the earth…I have baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!”

(Luke 12.49)

When the evangelist Luke writes about A.D. 85, Jesus has completed his baptism — his suffering, death, resurrection, and return to God, but he has not come again in glory. Meanwhile Christian faith has spread not only among Jews but among Gentiles and created conflicts. Baptism is one such conflict. Among Gentiles baptism takes the place of circumcision but some Pharisees who have become Christians object. They think Gentiles should be circumcised and instructed in keeping the law of Moses.

The gospel anticipates dividing fires will persist. In his follow up the Synod of the Family that met in 2014 and 2015, Pope Francis invites the Church today into tough conversations that air differences. In this Jubilee Year of Mercy Pope Francis invokes the principle that “time is greater than space.” He favors processes that make room over time for mercy and grace to work in our lives.

What value do you experience in talking about difficult, even divisive, questions? How does time make room for grace to work?

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Waging Peace

29 Jul
Photo via Flickr user Bruce Fingerhood

Photo via Flickr user Bruce Fingerhood

Do you hear the cries for peace? The longing is so urgent and real. It is easy to think of peace a simply a lack of violence. God’s vision of peace, however, is more beautiful than that and requires more of us than simply putting our weapons down.

What is God’s vision of peace? There are two biblical images in particular I have been meditating on:

And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not raise its sword against nation, and they shall learn war no more.          –Ish 2:4

and

Everyone will live in peace and prosperity, enjoying their own grapevines and fig trees, for there will be nothing to fear.       –Micah 4:4

I love the visuals that come with these images of peace. One person taking a weapon and making it into a tool that will help bring forth food, abundance and life. Or another person, enjoying the shade of a tree that bears fruit. This biblical idea of peace, coming from the word shalom, is not just lack of violence. This is a peace that gets at the holistic well being of all persons. It is a peace that claims that access to food, safety and leisure time bring human dignity and should be available to all.

These images of shalom remind me of a statue I saw in El Salvador, a beautiful and hopeful piece of art made from melted down bullets used in their civil war. Tools for violence turned into art. It makes me think of organizations working with farmers to create more secure food options for families and communities all around the world.

I yearn for shalom. I pray for a time when we can put down our weapons because we are no longer afraid. I beg for an age when we can all sit in the shade of prosperity without fear. Shalom will only come when all people have enough, when the most vulnerable in our communities are seen and tended to as God’s beloved children. Peace is tied to being committed to the well being of all. Shalom requires us to believe that we can glimpse heaven here and now and engage in God’s work of reconciliation in this life.

Blessed are the peacemakers, those who do not just think about it, but build their lives around waging peace. Peacemaking is a vocation Jesus calls us to. This shalom peace is not just a lack of violence, but a commitment to the holistic well being of all God’s beloved creatures. And God’s creatures are crying out for peace.

I-Thou

22 Jul
Photo via Flickr user Harwig HKD

Photo via Flickr user Harwig HKD

This week, Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg’s Podcast Nurture the Wowcast reminded me of the importance of incorporating Martin Buber’s I-Thou idea of relationship when approaching my small child. This is one small way that parenting is a spiritual practice.

It is important, especially in the middle of a tantrum, to really see our children. Instead of seeing our children as a frustration or problem or obstacle in getting out the door, we are called to see the world through their lens. God wants us to see and honor their full humanity.

Buber categorizes relationships into I-It and I-Thou. I-It relationships happen when we see the other as an object. I-Thou connections are sacred. We see the beauty of the other’s full personhood. I-Thou is the relationship we have with God.

The podcast was a simple, powerful reminder to seek I-Thou relationships not only with my child, but with all the people I encounter in my day. How am I treating the worker at the grocery store? Another mom at the park? My co-worker? My spouse? Who is this person? Can I try to see them today?

We can remember to see the people, friends and strangers alike. We can look for the desire, needs, fear and complex nature of the soul in front of us. This posturing of curiosity and seeking, I believe, is sacred, and can make a difference in our increasingly polarized and digitized world.

Gospel Reflection for July 24, 2016, 17th Sunday Ordinary Time

20 Jul

Scripture Readings: Genesis 18.20-32; Colossians 2.12-14; Luke 11.1-13

Jesus said, “Say this when you pray: Father, may you name be held holy; your kingdom come…”

Jesus encourages us to pray for “the kingdom,” the vision he has for a just and loving society and world. To pray that God’s name be hallowed and that God’s kingdom come is to acknowledge that all barriers to love must be dissolved. Anything that separates race from race, rich from poor, gender from gender, age group from age group, Christian from non-Christian is a barrier to the holiness God wishes to share with believers. Biases have no place in the community that names God our father.  Especially as protests and politics set us against one another, we must cherish all we have in common and respect one another.

Make today a day to act out the Our Father and talk with folks who seem different from yourself. Pray for someone with whom you are angry or hurt.

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Mourning Into Action

15 Jul
Photo via Flickr user AK Rockefeller

Photo via Flickr user AK Rockefeller

When one man gets shot, when five police get targeted by a sniper, when a baby dies from gun violence, we all hurt. It happens to us all. As people of faith, there are helpful places we can go.

We can turn toward lament, knowing God can withstand our anger and pain:

Hear my prayer, O LORD! And let my cry for help come to You. Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my distress; Incline Your ear to me; In the day when I call answer me quickly. –Psalm 102:1-2

We can crack open our Bibles and read, yet again, about the life of Jesus. We can see with eyes anew how he dissolved boundaries and worked for peace and saw the dignity in all people, challenging us to do the same.

As a person of faith, I also know I need to continue to explore my own white privilege. I am called to see it, name it, and work toward being actively anti-racist in my day. For encouragement, and guidance, we can turn toward the US Catholic Bishop’s Letter on Racism from 1979 (!). It still rings true in 2016. The whole letter is helpful, but allow me to include a few quotes here:

Racism is an evil which endures in our society and in our Church. Despite apparent advances and even significant changes in the last two decades, the reality of racism remains. In large part it is only external appearances which have changed.

Racism and economic oppression are distinct but interrelated forces which dehumanize our society. Movement toward authentic justice demands a simultaneous attack on both evils.

Indeed, racism is more than a disregard for the words of Jesus; it is a denial of the truth of the dignity of each human being revealed by the mystery of the Incarnation.

God’s word in Genesis announces that all men and women are created in God’s image; not just some races and racial types, but all bear the imprint of the Creator and are enlivened by the breath of His one Spirit.

We can read The New Jim Crow, Between the World and Me, Walking With the Wind, or I Have a Dream, just to name a few, and watch Color of Fear, Eyes on the Prize, or 4 Little Girls. We can identify where in our lives we have power and skills and use them for good. Do you have the power of free time to show up at a peaceful protest? Are you a voter in a place that could benefit from some policy change? As a mom, as a teacher of youth, as a writer I can tap into my power. I can commit to spending more time being uncomfortable, listening, learning, and acting in response to the recent violence.

There is a time to mourn and a time to dance. In this time of mourning, may our faith call us also to act.

Gospel Reflection for July 17, 2016, 16th Sunday Ordinary Time

12 Jul
Photo via Flickr user Jim Forest

Photo via Flickr user Jim Forest

Sunday Readings: Genesis 18.1-10; Colossians 1.24-28; Luke 10.38-42

“Jesus entered a village where a woman named Martha welcomed him to her home. She had a sister named Mary, who seated herself at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teachings.”

(Luke 10.38-39)

Luke puts Mary and Martha in their place in Sunday’s gospel passage. To be remembered by name in the gospel makes people stand out. Perhaps tradition remembers Martha and Mary because their home was not only a place Jesus stayed during his lifetime but a house church, where after Jesus’ resurrection, Martha welcomed a community of disciples to remember his teaching and break bread as he asked. John’s gospel also remembers Martha for gathering Jesus, her sister, her brother Lazarus, and friends for a meal (John 12.1-2).

In Sunday’s gospel Mary seats herself at Jesus’ feet to listen to his teaching and Martha serves him. These two actions — listening to Jesus’ words and serving a meal — are the same actions that take place in the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Perhaps Martha and Mary represent two forms of ministry evolving in the Christian community at the time Luke wrote — preaching the good news and gathering the community to break bread. In Acts 6.1-6, the twelve appoint deacons to serve and make sure all in the Jerusalem community get a fair amount of food, so that the twelve are free to preach. Perhaps by the time Luke writes in the mid-80s, the ministries of women in the Christian communities has become controversial.

Although Sunday’s gospel shows Martha offering table hospitality and Mary listening to the word, this scene effectively silences the ministries of both women. Jesus tells Martha to give up the ministry of her household, and perhaps her house church , and join her sister in choosing the better part–silent listening to Jesus. Perhaps their ministries of word and table made Martha and Mary too memorable in the life of the early Christian community to forget. Perhaps they were so important that Luke uses the voice of Jesus’ authority to put them in their place, the same subordinate position women are transforming today.

Who sustains the life of your faith community?

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Found Family

1 Jul

Last weekend I attended a 10th wedding anniversary celebration of two friends. I had attended the actual wedding a decade ago, and looked forward to the evening. Even with  my excitement, the gathering far exceeded my expectations.

The couple had reserved a beautiful room in the back of a lovely restaurant. Appetizers, drinks, dinner and a toasting cocktail were provided. At a certain moment of the dinner, the couple asked us the group, sitting at two long tables, to introduce ourselves so we could see how our lives intertwined. Later, the man made a toast to the woman and the woman made a toast to us, the friends gathered. Both toasts brought me to tears.

It was clear that the couple had put real thought into creating an intentional celebration. The guest list was built with care, and it was an honor to be in the room. Both people living far away from home, they had built a found family, and we were it.

I believe in found family, and talk about it often. For one reason or another, parents and siblings can’t always provide in the way that we need them to. They can’t be our everything. We can, however, build a found family over the years. We can reach out to mother and father figures and invest in found siblings. We can find ourselves among family regardless of genetic make up.

For my father and mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in. –Psalm 27:10

We are, indeed, beloved children of God. We’re in. We’re loved. At its best, our spiritual community can be an extension of God’s love, a found family. They can love us despite our faults. They can weep with and laugh with us. They can welcome us in, and pray for us when we have no words.

My friends created a thin space, a place where found family came together to eat great food and share special conversation. It was a reminder of what church can be when strengthened by the love of God the Parent.

 

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