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.”
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?
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.
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.
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
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.
Sunday Readings: Deuteronomy 30.10-14; Colossians 1.15-20; Luke 10.25-37
“But a Samaritan who was journeying along came on the beaten man and was moved to pity at the sight. He dressed his wounds, pouring in oil and wine as a means to heal. He then hoisted him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, where he cared for him.”
A marginalized person is often caught in cultural conflicts at the boundaries of society and communities. The Samaritan in Sunday’s gospel has compassion for a stranger left on the side of the road. During Jesus’ time Samaritans were the marginalized people in Israel, a heretical group detested and despised by Jews and pagans alike. For Jesus to hold up a Samaritan as a truly compassionate and wise person was to send religious and cultural shock-waves through his listener’s ears. People must have thought, “How could anyone make a Samaritan the hero of the story, a person obviously so unworthy and unacceptable?
Another unsung hero in the gospel is the donkey. The Samaritan acts out his compassion with the help of his animal. Pope Francis calls out our kinship with the whole of creation and its creatures in his encyclical Laudato Si’ on the environment. Jesus’ parable doesn’t tell us how far away the inn was or how big the injured person was. We do know the Samaritan couldn’t call 911 on his cell phone. He puts the injured person on his own animal that usually carries him or his loads. Together they help the wounded man.
When have you felt marginalized by economics, gender, sexual orientation, race, or personal crisis?
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.
Photo via Flickr user Natashi Jay
A woman is sexually assaulted while unconscious. 49 people are shot dead in a nightclub in Orlando. The country responds with anger, confusion, fear, sadness and grief. My heart is heavy.
How do we acknowledge and honor our feelings without letting them shut us down? Anger, confusion, fear, sadness and grief all have the potential to consume us, invite us into isolation, or lead to paranoia and hatred. How do we feel what we feel and commit to staying open and vulnerable? How do we keep faith today?
Confusion can lead to dialogue. Fear can inspire us to unite. Anger can lead to peacemaking action. Sadness can lead to greater compassion. For me, that transformation requires deep faith. It requires me to return to the story of Jesus. His life centered around peacekeeping. In his death, he took anger, confusion, fear and hatred into his body and transformed it to life and love.
Jesus’ life and death inspired the Christian nonviolent movement. It continues to inspire individuals and groups to bring love out of hate and peace out of fear. That transformation is what I pray for. I pray for the courage to allow God to turn my pain into love in action.
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?”
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?
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.