Living Bread, Living Water

Jesus said some weird stuff and the end of John 6 is the top of the list. Here Jesus talks about eating his flesh and drinking his blood to gain eternal life. It’s baffling even when we don’t take scripture literally. It’s hard to know what Jesus really intended here. Yes, it can be a foreshadowing of the Passover meal to come. Yet, I think he meant more than the eucharistic sharing of bread and cup. I suspect that all this weirdness about eating flesh and drinking blood has to do with how we live, a metaphor for embodying all that Jesus did and taught. Is this any less weird? Maybe not…

Confessing the Need for More Bread

Litany of Confession One:  Holy One, you call us to a life of loving-kindness. Yet, very often, we resort to violence with our words or actions forgetting our responsibility to love our neighbors and ourselves. people my quietly or silently voice their confessions Forgive us when we are self-absorbed. All:  Offer us, again, the bread … Read More

Some Unwanted Truth

My immediate response to this week’s readings is, “Yeah, that!” There is something about the stories of prophets that resonates deep within me. I don’t like it. I don’t want to admit it, but it’s true. Many years ago, I was preaching on Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. I described the role of Moses as prophetic leader of God’s people. I then went on to enumerate the ingratitude he received for all his efforts. The Israelites did not want the hardship of change and transition. They wanted familiar food and drink and comfort. They didn’t like the desert and they didn’t care what Moses was going through trying to keep God from smiting them. (Not to mention the absurdly long duration of movement from one place to another.) At one point in the sermon I said that being a prophet was the ultimate bad career move and thank God I had not been called to be a prophet. The entire congregation burst out with laughter. And I scratched my head; it wasn’t that funny.

The joke was truly on me. After worship, one of the parishioners told me I might be a bit confused. Had I not spent the last year telling the congregation that they were not being the church God created and called them to be? Had I not endured much criticism and a whole lot of resistance for the very little progress? She concluded with something like, “So tell me again that you are not a prophet.”

I like to ignore this aspect of my calling, really I do. But then I read texts like this week’s lectionary and it names the yearning I have for more justice, more action, more transformation. If that’s not enough, I also seem to have this compulsion to keep urging myself and others to be more engaged in the world. I read about Elisha picking up Elijah’s mantle and I want to applaud his persistence, question his reasoning, and affirm his cry for God’s presence. But mostly I think, sure pick up that mantle, shake the dust off, and keep moving. I’d do it without even thinking.

But the problem is that I see so much potential in people, churches, the world and I am baffled when we do not live into that potential. The fruit of the Spirit is much more enjoyable in the long run than the works of the flesh. I can’t help but rail against the acceptance of the status quo. This week I was told by a well-meaning colleague that “sometimes you just have to accept the way things are.” No! Not when there is injustice and human suffering involved. I can’t. I am simply not capable of standing around to merely witness a lack of justice. It is not in my blood.

Essentially, not only do I want more, but I believe more is possible. I want more for the people the recent Supreme Court decisions most impact. I want the hatred, fear, and ignorance to stop. I want Israel and Palestine to coexist in peace. I want Afghanistan to stand proudly on its own with peaceful relations with its neighbors. I yearn for justice in a way that often keeps me awake at night. I see the potential for us to do better and I can’t understand why we don’t.

Why is there still a death penalty? Why the inequity in our sentencing laws? Why do people fear gay marriage so much? Why do people hate and fear people who speak other languages, worship other gods, have different skin color? Why are voting rights still in question anywhere? Why is women’s health secondary to men’s health? Why does everyone not have access to healthcare? Why are people starving anywhere in the world? Why does anyone think it’s okay to genetically modify food? Why do people advocate for the continued use of carbon fuels? Why do we not demand a world that honors the fruit of the Spirit? Why do we not keep our hands on the plough?

I’m not kidding! This stuff makes me nuts. I do not understand why we let those corrupted by power and money make decisions for everyone else when the end result is often so destructive. It doesn’t make any sense to me and I have this deep yearning for more justice for all people. And, yes, I feel compelled to write such things. I truly believe that when the human spirit and the Holy Spirit join forces, all things are possible. Why do we settle for less?

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RCL – Year C – Sixth Sunday After Pentecost – June 30, 2013

2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14 with Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20 or
1 Kings 19:15-16,19-21 with Psalm 16
Galatians 5:1, 13-25
Luke 9:51-62

Do You Know Where God is?

This week I have written a prayer that is drawn directly from the 1 Kings, Galatians, and Luke readings. These are the prayers  that emerged as I read the passages. By praying the texts in this way, they become more alive, more relevant for me. Maybe this will be true for you also.

God who is present all the time – when we notice, and when we do not – hear these prayers. I lift up to you:

Those who see nothing wrong with violence and threats of more violence to get what they want

Those who need to flee to places unknown in order to save their lives

Those who feel overwhelmed by the tasks before them

Those who grieve for what was lost in tornadoes, hurricanes, or earthquakes

Those who grapple with wild fire

Those who fail to sit still long enough to hear the sound of shear silence and the still, small voice it holds

Those who spend more time focusing on whom are heirs to the promise than on the promise itself

Those who live as outcasts

Those tormented by today’s demons, legion or not quite so many

Those who are fearful of who they find sitting in the presence of Christ

Those who are afraid to sit with Jesus

Those who are terrified of transformation and healing

And for all the times and ways I am like all of these…


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RCL – Year C – Fifth

1 Kings 19:1-4,(5-7),8-15a with Psalm 42 and 43 or Sunday After Pentecost – June 23, 2013
Isaiah 65:1-9 with Psalm 22:19-28 and
Galatians 3:23-29
Luke 8:26-39

Not Exactly Original, But Sin Nonetheless

Scriptures about power, greed, sin, and forgiveness aren’t always welcome today. Somewhere along the line, talking about sin has gone out of fashion almost to the extreme. I was once the short-term interim at a church that wouldn’t allow a prayer of confession even on communion Sundays because the idea of sin made them uncomfortable. Sin, especially our own, should make us uncomfortable. Sin by definition is that which separates us from, or breaks relationship with, God, ourselves, or others. Forgiveness should alleviate the discomfort sin creates. If we don’t acknowledge our sins, how on earth can we accept anyone’s forgiveness, including God’s?

The readings from 1 Kings, 2 Samuel, and Luke all address people in power who succumb to greed in one way or another, commit some serious sins, and face forgiveness or not. These texts can easily inform many contemporary contexts. The obvious invitation is to examine our own lives and see where power, sin, and forgiveness interact. On another level, asking similar questions of a congregation could be fruitful. And I can’t help but think about our national identity and the sins we commit as a powerful nation (not that I believe or think or want this to be a Christian country).

When I read about Jezebel getting Naboth killed so Ahab can have his vineyard, I’m amazed at the brazen abuse of power. Neither Jezebel nor Ahab saw anything wrong in doing whatever was necessary to get what they wanted. It didn’t matter to them that an innocent man was killed. Even when Elijah pointed out the wrong doing, Ahab was unphased. The questions that come to my mind are these:  When have I used the power I have to get what I wanted without regard for another’s needs? Did I defend these actions or did I ask for forgiveness? Has the church (the congregation I attend or the denomination I am part of) acted without regard to its neighbor’s needs at any point? Does the church acknowledge this sin and seek forgiveness? When has this nation taken from others without regard to consequences for others? Do we stand unphased or do we seek forgiveness?

Like Jezebel, King David used his power to get Bathsheba for himself. He acted on impulse and desire. As a result Uriah the Hittite was murdered. When Nathan pointed out David’s sin, David recognized that he had indeed “sinned against the Lord.” God offered forgiveness, but the consequences for David’s sins were not wiped out. Here my questions are: When I have acted on impulse and caused harm to another, have I been able to acknowledge my sin and accept forgiveness? Do I view painful consequences as punishment for sin or am I able to face the situation knowing that God has forgiven me? When has the church acted on impulse and caused harm to others? Has the community explored forgiveness even as painful consequences may be felt for years? As a nation, when have we taken what belongs to another and made it our own? Have we acknowledged this sin? What role does forgiveness play as we deal with the long-term consequences?

After these two stories of power and sin, there is the third. Luke’s version of the woman who anointed Jesus comes at this theme from the opposite direction. The woman is clearly a SINNER and she offers Jesus what others did not. Simon the Pharisee offered Jesus nothing in the way of typical hospitality even though Simon would have believed himself to be a much better person than the woman. She recognized that Jesus deserved all she had to offer. She brought her whole self – pricy jar and costly tears – and she showed Jesus hospitality like no other. And no one understood. For this passage my questions are: When have I believed myself to be better than another and, thereby, missed offering Jesus radical hospitality? As a church, whom have we failed to welcome? How have we withheld hospitality from others and from Jesus? As a nation, whom do we judge unworthy? Is there a place for forgiveness and hospitality in our national identity?

All these texts are rich and relevant. But I will end my reflections here since this is not a sermon and is only meant to stimulate thoughts and further reflection on the relevance of lectionary texts for the modern reader. So may it be.

For you are not a God
     who delights in wickedness;
evil will not sojourn with you.

The boastful will not stand before your eyes;
     you hate all evildoers.

You destroy those who speak lies;
     God abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful.

But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
     will enter your house,
I will bow down towards your holy temple
     in awe of you.

Lead me, O God, in your righteousness
     because of my enemies;
make your way straight before me.

pennyRCL – Fourth Sunday After Pentecost – June 16, 2013

1 Kings 21:1-10, (11-14), 15-21a with Psalm 5:1-8 or
2 Samuel 11:26-12:10,13-15 with Psalm 32
Galatians 2:15-21
Luke 7:36-8:3

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