Tag Archives: God

Gospel Reflection for May 21, 2017, 6th Sunday of Easter

16 May

Scripture Readings: Acts 8.5-8, 14-17; 1 Peter 315-18; John 14.15-21

“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.” – John 14.18

Thanks to the pervasive power of God’s love, there is no where Jesus’ friends can go where God is not, and nowhere they can go where the Spirit is not, or where Christ is not. Through their relationship, Jesus’ friends will participate in his relationships with God–“I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” Jesus assures his disciples they have everything they need for their lives and mission after he is gone. The intangible bond of love, friendship, and discipleship last. The small and large gestures that make love visible last. Tenderness lasts and gets passed down generations in parents’ care for their kids, in friends’ presence in difficult times.

Jesus entrusts his first disciples and us with his mission to invest our hearts and hands in families and friends and extend our love beyond. Building community and welcoming diversity in our world are missions for us who are Jesus’ disciples today.

What is a relationship in your life that has lasted? In whom are your investing your love?

If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
to order a subscription or request a free sample.
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

Gospel Reflection for April 9, 2017, Palm/Passion Sunday

3 Apr

Photo via Flickr user Thomas Hawk

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

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – Matthew 27.46

Jesus’ passion is the reverse of the kingly life to which the devil tempted him and which the Church read on the 1st Sunday of Lent. Jesus does not rule the world, rather he is subject to the representative of Caesar, the Roman governor who knows he is innocent of the charges against him but allow Jesus to be put to death.

The events of Jesus’ passion test and manifest his love for God, for the world, for his friends, and for the community that gathers to this day 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.

What in your life has demanded more than you thought you had to give?

If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
to order a subscription or request a free sample.
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

Gospel Reflection for March 5, 2017, 1st Sunday of Lent

27 Feb
Photo via Flickr user Adam Hinett

Photo via Flickr user Adam Hinett

Scripture Readings: Genesis 2.7-9; 3.1-7; Romans 5.12-19; Matthew 4.1-11

“Away with you, Satan. Scripture says, ‘You shall worship the Holy One your God; only God shall you adore.'” – Matthew 4.10

Each year the temptation story from one of the synoptic gospels is the gospel for the 1st Sunday of Lent. The devil in the story calls out Jesus for a show of divine power, something to prove he is God. But Jesus shuns divine stunts and recommits to the first commandment — to worship God alone. The story invites us to examine the God in whom we believe. Is our God one who inspires success and personal gain more than service and mercy? Perhaps we find God useless, a God who lets bad things happen to good people. Or perhaps God seems too old-fashioned, pre-scientific, and irrelevant to claim much attention. Jesus makes worshiping God alone the key to his life. The temptation gospel calls us to refresh our image of God, which we can do by taking observant walks outside in creation and by taking time for solitude and reflection on God’s word.

What is currently putting you to the test in your life?

If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
to order a subscription or request a free sample.
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

Gospel Reflection for February 26, 2017, 8th Sunday Ordinary Time

22 Feb
Photo via Flickr user alamosbasement

Photo via Flickr user alamosbasement

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 49.1-5; 1 Corinthians 4.1-5; Matthew 6.24-24

“Which of you by worrying can add a moment to his or her lifespan? As for clothes, why  be concerned? Learn a lesson from the way the wild flowers grow. They don’t work; they don’t spin. Yet I assure you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was arrayed like one of these.”  – Matthew 6.27-29

Our childhoods live within us for better and worse. Mine has given me a lifelong, sustaining intimacy with God in creation. When Jesus challenges those listening to his sermon on the mount to learn a lesson from how the wild flowers grow, I’m with him. This is my spirituality, learning from Earth. We have existence as a gift.

We see in the cosmos God’s irrepressibly creative love everywhere expanding, growing more diverse, and coming to consciousness in us. We humans know that we know, which sometimes makes us anxious but also makes us the chanticleers of the universe, the ones able to live in praise and care for one another.

The gospel insists that we can’t give ourselves to God and money. If we give our hearts to God in faith, we appreciate all that is. We see beauty around us, in us, and in one another. We value ourselves as God does all creation. We judge one another by God’s standards. We live the golden rule and provide for one another out of God’s abundance rather than creating the scarcities that worry the poor.

What lessons do the wild flowers teach you? What conflicts do you experience between God and money?

If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
to order a subscription or request a free sample.
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

Gospel Reflection for January 8, 2017, Epiphany

4 Jan
Photo via Flickr user Eileen

Photo via Flickr user Eileen

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 60.1-6; Ephesians 3.2-3, 5-6; Matthew 2.1-12

“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to pay him homage.” – Matthew 2.2

The magi follow a star. They search for God in the visible, natural world. Creation is the first source of revelation. Creation manifests God’s life-giving and sustaining presence. Today we follow stars with the Hubble telescope, which has confirmed Einstein’s theory that we live in an expanding universe.

We are seekers like the magi. Physics has taken us inside the atom. Biology has decoded the human genome and learned home molecules splice and proteins fold. In our world God acts not only in the beginning but in all 13.7 billion years of our unfolding. The God of our cosmic story is not fixed and static but dynamic and life-giving.

God comes to use from the future as we experience the lure within us to become all we can be, a drive we share with all beings. In our relationships with each other and our partnerships with Earth, evolution continues. In Jesus God shows us all we can become.

How do you want God to come to you from the future?

If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
to order a subscription or request a free sample.
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

The Wisdom of Vulnerability

22 Dec
Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The Word

Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The Word

The Christmas story is full of vulnerability– God becoming a human baby, Mary saying yes to a child that will change her life, Joseph agreeing to raise a child that is not his. Even the Magi show great vulnerability in their star gazing and quest to find and worship Jesus.

Part of an Epiphany prayer in Women’s Uncommon Prayers reads:

If there had been three wise women…they would have asked for directions, arrived early, delivered the baby, cleaned the stable, cooked the dinner, and brought practical gifts.

The Magi’s visit may have lacked practicality, yet the visitors still earned their descriptor of wise. If we take a close look at their journey, their wisdom lives in their vulnerability and faith.

They leave the comfort of their homes and lives. They travel on a whim without assurance. Instead of giving into the darkness all around them, they look up to the heavens to see the light of a star. They show up. They come prepared with gifts. They understand that the child is not just king, but holy and divine, deserving of worship. And they are in tune enough with their dreams to take an alternative route home instead of reporting back to King Herod. Through the entire story, the Magi are open to God’s leading, humble enough to go where they are called.

How many of us, when given the chance, stay warm in our homes instead of venturing out to see God out in the world with our own eyes? When nights are filled with darkness, we often forget to look up at the stars for a sign, for light. We are so filled with cynicism and importance that our hearts can become closed off to the adoration and homage required of us to worship. How many of us fall asleep with a brain too busy to hear God in our dreams?

The Christmas season brings us back to the wisdom of vulnerability. We can choose to be like Herod, who wants to know about Jesus, is worried how his power might interfere, but is not willing to leave home to find out more. Or we can choose to be like the wise men, who are vulnerable enough to venture out into the darkness on God’s provision of a savior, not quite sure how it will all work out, but hoping the path will lead us to the one worthy of our adoration and worship. May this Christmas season fill your hearts and homes with the wisdom of vulnerability!

Merry Christmas!

Practicing Advent, Free of Fear

16 Dec
Photo via Flickr user Joathina

Photo via Flickr user Joathina

A dear friend of mine is a pediatrician who specializes in palliative care. That means, essentially, she helps children die well. It’s vocational work that is demanding of her body, mind and spirit. Because of the grueling hours and the deep sadness, she needed to find a hobby that would encourage her to sit still and rest in her time off. She started knitting. Specifically, she started knitting warm, beautiful sweaters for all the babies being born in her life. My son has one of these sweaters, and another will come soon once my second is born. At first she saw her knitting as a way to trick her body into being still and resting while still feeling productive. Creating something tangible also soothed her mind. Now, she realizes that, maybe most importantly, it is a spiritual practice. When she is not at work with children who are dying, she needs to be celebrating the children in her life who are healthy and thriving, welcoming them into the world. The knitting brings her balance and hope, one stitch at a time. It keeps her from slipping into fear and becoming paralyzed. It helps her show back up at work to sit with people in their sorrow.

Many people are speaking to the palpable fear washing over our society. Fear separates us from God and has the toxic ability to paralyze us. When I hear talk of this fear, I think of my friend, quietly knitting, creating, claiming hope, subversively choosing light over fear while continuing to work in the center of sorrow. She is practicing Advent.

We read in our Advent Scriptures the angels saying over and over again, “Fear not!” As I marvel at my friend’s courage and strength, we marvel at Mary’s ability to nod and courageously let go of fear and accept light and life.

Fear not, for a child is coming. Babies are precious and sacred in their ability to offer love and beauty, hope and life without asking for anything in return. They are fresh and new, full of possibilities we don’t even know. They help us dream, they invite us to wonder. Who are you little baby? The world is better because you are here!

God decided to become a baby. We often think of God as big and powerful and strong. God saw that more than big power we needed simple love. We need hope and light. God wants us to dream and wonder and sit in awe of things that are beautiful and precious. God came as baby Jesus, a little, cute, fragile baby that needed people to take care of him, nurture him, and love him to keep him alive. He is a light that starts out as small as a newborn baby and gets as big as we can dream it to be. We celebrate a how clever God is, to come as a baby, so that we know that God wants our attention, adoration and love.

That is what is so tragic about my friend’s work in pediatric palliative care. That is what is so hopeful about her knitting. She lives in the thin space where she experiences both God’s saving power that brings heaven to this place and God’s saving power that offers us life in the place to come. Creating as a knitter and working as a doctor helps her let go of fear and live in the light of Jesus, now and in the time to come. She is practicing Advent, and inviting me to do the same.

Fear not. A child is coming.

Gospel Reflection for December 18, 2016, 4th Sunday Advent

13 Dec

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 7.10-14; Romans 1.1-7; Matthew 1.18-24

“This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother was engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her husband, an upright man unwilling to expose her to the law, decided to divorce her quietly. Then an angel of the Holy One appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Joseph, son of David, have no fear about taking Mary as your wife. It is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived this child. She is to have a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.'” – Matthew 1.20-21

In our own lives we have to make the journey Joseph makes in Sunday’s gospel from the law and its requirements to acting and judging with compassion. Joseph’s story calls us to listen to the Spirit of God that lives within us in the deepest reaches of our psyches and never lets up on us, waking or sleeping, until we bring to life in our relationships what only we can do. Each of us is called to embody the promise of the Spirit in us, to become Emmanuel, and bring God among those we love and try to love. Each of us is called like Joseph to dream a future for the children of promise born among us today.

Who are children of promise in your life? How do you respond to children in need in our world?

If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
to order a subscription or request a free sample.
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

Gospel Reflection for December 11, 2016, 3rd Sunday Advent

6 Dec

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 35.1-6,10; James 5.7-10; Matthew 11.2-11

John the Baptist sends messengers to ask Jesus, “Are you the one to come or should we expect someone else?” Jesus answers, “Tell John what you hear and see: the blind can see; the lame can walk; lepers are cured; the deaf hear; the dead are raised to life, and the poor have the good news preached to them.” – Matthew 11.3-5

In Sunday’s first reading the prophet Isaiah imagines the desert greening wherever God steps. The Israelite captives’ return from exile in Babylon brought healing joy and a new experience of God’s faithfulness to the people of Israel. In his ministry Jesus gives life: sight, hearing, healing that reveals God as the giver of life and the lover of us all, again making Isaiah’s prophecy come true in his time. It’s Sunday’s first reading. God is faithful and keeps on giving life.

In the first week of Advent I visited my brother at the University of Minnesota Hospital. It’s where he got a living donor liver transplant from his son. It’s where my mother died of the same liver disease that damaged that vital organ in my brother. Mother was part of the research that in three years initiated transplants. Doctors and nurses are helping Isaiah’s vision keep coming true. We take part in giving life in many ways–giving birth, nurturing our children, caring for our planet, being good news for people living on the edge of sustenance. Like our Christmas trees God is ever-green, the encircling, sustaining life, and holy mystery in which we live.

As one of our local priests often started Mass, “In the name of our ever-living, all-loving, unfolding God.”

What do we hear and see around us that makes the words of the prophet Isaiah that Jesus quotes keep coming true? 

If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
to order a subscription or request a free sample.
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

Spices from Heaven

2 Dec
Photo via Flicker user Mark Skrobola

Photo via Flicker user Mark Skrobola

Invisible spices are falling from heaven all the time. If your eye is not holding its hand out, or your mouth or heart not open, how will you ever get a full taste of something that will cure you of many things? –Rumi

Advent is a time when invisible spices fall from heaven. It is a mistake, then, to simply wait passively for Christ to come. Advent is a season of actively waiting, of intentional preparation. As we open our Advent calendars, hang our stockings, bake our cookies, light our candles, we are asking the Lord to come near. If our eyes hold their hands out, if we keep our mouths and hearts open, we will get a taste of what is to come.

Advent is an invitation to change our outlook and posturing, to get quiet but also get moving. To acknowledge that things are going fine, life is predictable and familiar, but deep down we yearn for God to show up. If our eyes, mouths and hearts are open, we can choose to see things like the wisdom of small children, snow days, unexpected invitations, or a needed connection with a friend as divine intrusion.

We need God to intrude into the ordinary, to become one of us. We didn’t ask for this. We didn’t know we needed it, until he came. And we need him to come again. Please, Lord, intrude again with your divinity. There are so many hurting, mourning, captive, broken-hearted. Jesus is coming to bring comfort and freedom. There is much we can do to prepare the way.

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion—to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. -Ish 61:1-3

We are preparing for Jesus, God with us, to come. Jesus comes as a baby, but we know what is at the end of the line for him. He is coming to die. Christ the king is not about power, but love. How do you make room for more love during Advent? How do you wait actively, to prepare? How do you hold the hand of your eyes open to catch spices from heaven?

Come Lord Jesus. We need you now.

%d bloggers like this: