Tag Archives: love

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?

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Gospel Reflection for February 19, 2017, 7th Sunday Ordinary Time

14 Feb

Scripture Readings: Leviticus 19.1-2, 17-18; 1 Corinthians 3.16-23; Matthew 5.38-48

“You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ but I say to your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for God makes the sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” – Matthew 5.43-45

In the gospel this week Jesus asks us to take God as our standard in how we treat others. In this Jesus goes beyond the golden rule –“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The golden rule makes us ourselves the standard of how to treat others. To respond to enemies and evil with conscious, gracious, undeserved compassion goes farther. This is how a life-giving, merciful God acts.

Jesus exhorts us to be perfect as God is perfect. One translator of the word perfect suggests the meaning fully alive. Perfect can imply finished, completed, perfected, done. When one is fully alive, one is whole and wholly operational. We are able to use all our human capacities to know and love others, to live the values and strengthen the bonds that hold us together as families, neighborhoods, and today more than ever as a nation.

When have you made a friend of a seeming enemy? Who is at risk in your neighborhood? How can you help?

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Gospel Reflection for January 1, 2017, Mary, Mother of God

29 Dec

Sunday Readings: Numbers 6.2-27; Galatians 4.4-7; Luke 2.16-21

“Mary pondered all these words in her heart.” – Luke 2.19

Sunday’s gospel about the shepherds visit to Mary’s child and offers only a single sentence about her. That sentence turns on the word pondered, in Greek the word if symballein. Ballein means to throw. Literally the Greek word means to throw together, to wrestle with together. Cymbals have the same root, bringing together to make noise. For Mary to ponder is to interpret the events life is throwing at her. Her faith seeks understanding. Significantly in Luke’s birth narrative, Mary and Joseph can find no place to stay in Bethlehem. Mary gives birth and begins mothering her child in a stable or cave for animals. The sign the shepherds go to Bethlehem to see is the savior, lying in a manger, born among the poor, one of them.

What do you imagine Mary is pondering at age 15 when she give birth to Jesus? At 45 when Jesus starts his ministry? At the foot of the cross?

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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!

Gospel Reflection for November 27, 2016, 1st Sunday Advent

24 Nov

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 2.1-5, Romans 13.11-14, Matthew 24.37-44

Thanksgiving gatherings are troubling many folks after the election. The gospel that begins the church year wakes us up to love one another. The gospel is about Jesus’ coming again, an event that seems far off, but the gospel uses the flood in the time of Noah and a thief in one’s home as convincing examples that the time to wake up to God’s coming among us is always now.

The birth of Jesus reveals a divine value in human life and relationships. The birth of God in human flesh is an emptying of divine prerogative and a privileging of our human capacities to heal, share, forgive, reconcile, free, accompany. Now is the time to live like Jesus. Now is the moment to feed the hungry, to forgive those we really love, to restore depressed spirits to joy. Now is the time to watch birds eating the seeds of last summer’s blooms and to let I love you and I’m proud of you no longer go unsaid. Now is the time to give ourselves to those we love and those whose lives we touch.

Isaiah urges us to train for war no more, to beat our swords into pruning hooks, our bombs into bread, to build peace in our families and our world.

What family rituals do you value most for holding those you love together?

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Gospel Reflection for November 20, 2016, Christ the King

14 Nov

Sunday Readings: 2 Samuel 5.1-3; Colossians 1.12-20; Luke 23.35-43

“Jesus is the face of God’s mercy,” Pope Francis writes in announcing the Jubilee Year of Mercy that ends this Sunday. “These words might well sum up the mystery of Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him.” In Sunday’s gospel Jesus shows us mercy is his signature act; he forgives the good thief on the cross. Forgiveness is the balm of mercy that Pope Francis hopes has reached everyone this year.

In this crucifixion scene the evangelist Luke gives us the gospel in cameo. Luke tells the community for whom he writes and us that Jesus is God’s Spirit-filled prophet, innocent of charges brought against him. He brings good news to people who live in poverty and hope to those burdened with debt and exploited for profit. Jesus is our kin, who knows our sufferings and seeks to heal people and set them free. This is the mission we continue — kinship or solidarity with all.

To whom have you yet to show mercy in this year of mercy? Who among the kin of God or kin of Jesus stretches who you regard as kin?

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Dying Well

11 Nov
Bruce Kramer

Bruce Kramer

I know Bruce Kramer only through his blog Dis Ease Diary about living with and dying from ALS. A profoundly wise man, Bruce died of ALS in 2015. In his writing, he wanted to ask questions in a way that united people. What a worthy endeavor. When I heard Cathy Wurzer was speaking about her relationship with Bruce and their book project, We Know How This Ends on All Saints’ Day, I knew I had to go. His spirit filled the sanctuary as Wurzer projected pictures and played audio of Bruce.

In choosing to die well, Bruce continues to teach us so much about how to live well. Bruce claimed that ALS was the greatest teacher of his life. It helped him become the man he was meant to be. He invited those around him to be vulnerable, to stay present in the day, and to cut straight through to love. In so doing, he got to know people on a different level and at a different depth, which changed his life.

Through adaptive yoga, he learned how to breathe and ground himself even at the very end. He was able to forgive his body for dying like it was supposed to do, just faster than he would’ve liked. One son stayed connected to Bruce through yoga, another came three times a week to shave his face with a straight blade, an intimate interaction. Bruce recorded himself reading children’s books so his grandchildren could hear his voice after he was gone. He took full advantage of the time he was given at the end. He allowed death to focus his life. The title of Bruce Kramer’s book comes from a line he repeated a lot after his diagnosis: “We’re all headed to the same place.” Indeed. Death opened his eyes to how precious life is, and he never stopped growing.

Wurzer grew close to Kramer over the years of interviews. He required it, actually. When they started working together he asked her, “Will you be here in the end, when I die?” She kept her word and got her buddies at NPR to play one of his favorite pieces on classical radio as he was taking his last breaths. When her colleague asked her in the aftermath, “What do you make it all?” She answered, “I think I gave grace a microphone.”

As the poignant evening came to a close, Wurzer projected a Peanuts cartoon with two characters sitting on a dock. One says, “Some day we will all die.” The other says, “True, but on all the other days we will not.” This is the gift of All Saints’ Day. There is grieving, loss and sorrow, but also great joy. I am alive today and living better in part because Bruce Kramer, faced with a horrible fate, committed to dying well.

 

Bodies Broken Open to Love

28 Oct
Photo via Flickr user Ian Britton

Photo via Flickr user Ian Britton

I am in my last two months of pregnancy. My body no longer belongs to me. The baby who has taken up residence in my womb the past months is making him or herself known in a whole new way. I will be perpetually uncomfortable, absorbing internal blows, adjusting to weight gain, rubbing sore feet, hips and shoulder blades. I will only sleep, I will be only as active as the baby allows. Someone else is calling the shots. All I can do is wait.

I have a joyful little boy running around, reminding me exactly how worth it the third trimester of pregnancy is. This resident alien is a person who I will fall deeply in love with and be in constant awe of. It will be the deepest honor to the its mommy. I keep reminding myself. It helps. It also helps that I know the pain and discomfort are productive, the consequences of generating life. Suffering that is a part of life and love make us better people in the end.

The temporary powerlessness of late pregnancy brings with it great compassion. Knowing that the pain and discomfort are in the service of life, I welcome the opportunity to be broken. It is good, for a season, that I don’t get my way. It keeps me from aligning myself as the center of the universe. This world is not about me. It invites me to contemplate people whose bodies are broken and not their own due to illness, abuse, or poverty, things that don’t bring life and love.

To bear another life in my body is messy. It’s beautiful. It’s annoying. It, maybe more than anything, teaches me about love.

Last week I had a conversation with a 7th grade boy about how we turn images of an angry God into images of a loving God. “What stories can you think of that show God as a lover?”

After a long pause he said simply, profoundly, “The crucifixion.” I took a moment to let the unexpected wisdom of this young man sink in and then asked him to say more. “God became a person, and that person, God’s son, died so that we could live. That’s love.”

Yes. On the cross, Jesus takes our broken humanity into his very body and dies a human death with all the pain, suffering and abandonment that comes with that. In do doing, he offers us his divinity so that we may know life. God points to this act on the cross and declares Jesus Lord. The cross is mess, beautiful, and teaches us about love. Life wins. Love has the final word.

This simple reminder that the cross is the true sign of God’s love was a gift to me as I waddle through my remaining days of pregnancy. May my manageable, baby-growing discomfort break me open to love better and may it invite me to contemplate the mystery of God’s love through the cross.

 

Restoring Peace

5 Aug
Photo via Flickr user Carolina Ponce

Photo via Flickr user Carolina Ponce

The disciples were fishing, and a man on the shore told them to throw their net to the other side of the boat.”It is the Lord,” one said to Peter. It was the third time Jesus appeared to his friends after the resurrection in John. Although Peter had not initially recognized Jesus, he jumped into the water to swim to shore. While the others stayed in the boat, Peter’s love for Jesus could not be contained.

The time between Jesus’ death and ascension is blessed, heavy with holiness and wonder. In these interactions, Jesus is teaching us a great deal about peace and reconciliation, which seems to be his focus in that middle time. “Peace. Peace be with you. My peace I give you,” he says as a greeting. It is done. In his death and resurrection, peace is possible. Now the disciples have to take that peace and make it real in the world.

In his life, death and resurrection, Jesus is a master healer. His healing brings restoration and transformation. It leaves the broken not only whole, but stronger. It is a ministry of true reconciliation. The scene that follows Peter’s endearing swim to meet Jesus is another example of the heart of Jesus’ ministry.

First, they eat. This is no small gesture. Imagine if we really took the time to sit down and share a meal with people we are working with, living among, and loving before launching into the business at hand. Then, after connecting to his friend, listening and laughing, he asks,”Peter, do you love me?”

“You know that I love you.”

“Peter, do you love me?”

“Lord, you know that I love you.”

A third time, “Peter, do you love me?”

It would have been easy for Jesus to assume Peter understood what the resurrection meant– that he was forgiven, that he was filled with Christ’s peace. Jesus creates an intimate moment between friends so that Peter will claim his freedom. Jesus asks not once, but three times. Peter is reminded of his own brokenness and thrice betrayal in the same moment he is released from it. He is free to take on the peace of Christ and spread it to the world.

This “Do you love me?/Lord, you know that I love you” refrain has been echoing in my head for a few days. It is Jesus intimately and tenderly taking my hand, helping me face my brokenness and claim Christ’s forgiveness and peace so that I too may engage in the ever-important work of reconciliation in our broken world. The peace of restoration– that same peace Jesus showed lepers and adulterers and his good friend Peter– is being given to us to claim and share.

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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