31 January 2013

Daily Gospel Reflection - 31 January 2013


The apostles returned to Jesus and told him everything they had done and taught. Many people were coming and going, so there was no time to eat. He said to the apostles, “Come by yourselves to a secluded place and rest for a while.” They departed in a boat by themselves for a deserted place.

Many people saw them leaving and recognized them, so they ran ahead from all the cities and arrived before them. When Jesus arrived and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then he began to teach them many things.

Late in the day, his disciples came to him and said, “This is an isolated place, and it’s already late in the day. Send them away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy something to eat for themselves.”

He replied, “You give them something to eat.”

But they said to him, “Should we go off and buy bread worth almost eight months’ pay and give it to them to eat?”

He said to them, “How much bread do you have? Take a look.”

After checking, they said, “Five loaves of bread and two fish.”

He directed the disciples to seat all the people in groups as though they were having a banquet on the green grass. They sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. He took the five loaves and the two fish, looked up to heaven, blessed them, broke the loaves into pieces, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. Everyone ate until they were full. They filled twelve baskets with the leftover pieces of bread and fish. About five thousand had eaten.

Right then, Jesus made his disciples get into a boat and go ahead to the other side of the lake, toward Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After saying good-bye to them, Jesus went up onto a mountain to pray.

“Who can have communion at your church,” the man asked.

“All are welcome,” I replied.

The man was stunned. “But what if they aren’t Reformed?”

Another person asked, “Do you use real wine or juice?”

“We use wine,” I said.

“Even for children,” was her reply.

“Okay. Enough of these trifles. The big question is: Do believe in the real body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist?”

It’s amazing to me how we have taken something that was supposed to unify the people of The Way and made it into something that divides us. As most of you know by now, I think this stems from the Empirical Religious Business that has consumed the simple faith and practice of following Jesus. “The Way” has lost being a daily practice of being Jesus in the world. We now argue and debate things like wine or grape juice. If we disagree we won’t fellowship with each other and, sometimes, we question if “they” are really a follower of Jesus at all.

In the story before us, we see a completely different approach. After a long day of ministry, Jesus and the disciples go off to a “secluded place” to rest and regroup. Apparently this was a place they went to a lot because the crowds saw them leaving, determined where they must be going, and got to the destination before them. And not just those people, but the people from the neighboring communities went, too.

When Jesus and the disciples arrived, Jesus was overwhelmed with “compassion.” The Greek word here indicates a deep stirring of emotion that is felt physically. Jesus was moved. His insides were churning for these people. He couldn’t just leave them while he and the disciples went off by themselves. The people had nowhere else to go. The systems of their world had all but abandoned them (and some of them were abandoned). They weren’t getting the support and care they needed and it moved Jesus to action.

As the day wore on, the disciples wanted to send the people away. I often feel we give the disciples are hard time in this passage. I don’t think they were being unkind. I think they, too, were stuck in the way the systems work. They cared about the people but they were still imprisoned in their old ways.

Jesus wanted them to expand their way of seeing. G_d’s Realm was not about individuals and families. It was about all of them, together, along with their neighbors - and yes, even their enemies - becoming one tribe, one group, one community.

One family.

I see in this feeding a sense of the Eucharist, the great thanksgiving, the common meal. The people were not set in their family groups. They were set in groups of fifties and hundreds. This sign is meant to expand our vision and focus. The new family Jesus was creating around himself redrew the social, economic, political, and religious lines. No doubt, there would be people in those groups that were tax collectors, prostitutes, fishermen, home makers, carpenters. There were probably rich people and the homeless. There were probably those who had recently been healed of a horrible skin disease that kept them out of regular society. there were probably some Samaritans and Romans and Jews. There were probably even some of the Religious Elite there, too (since they always had someone there to see what Jesus was up to).

But Jesus reordered their ways of seeing. The Way of Jesus brings all of those groups together as a unified people. They’re all seen as sisters and brothers. The all shared in this miracle. This sign that points, not to the systems of the world, but the Realm of G_d becoming a reality in their midsts. It was given to show what True Humanity looks like. It’s given as an example of how we should act, live, and be in the world around us.

All are welcome to feed on the Eucharist because all are welcome to Christ. Christ is present in the Eucharist because Christ is present in all Life. He is the Life and Light within all things. We, as followers of The Way, are called to reflect Christ, to be Christ to the world around us.

“Let the one who hears say, ‘Come’” (Revelations 22).



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

30 January 2013

Daily Gospel Reflection - 30 January 2013

They cast out many demons, and they anointed many sick people with olive oil and healed them.

Herod the king heard about these things, because the name of Jesus had become well-known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and this is why miraculous powers are at work through him.” Others were saying, “He is Elijah.” Still others were saying, “He is a prophet like one of the ancient prophets.” But when Herod heard these rumors, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised to life.”

He said this because Herod himself had arranged to have John arrested and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of Herod’s brother Philip. Herod had married her, but John told Herod, “It’s against the law for you to marry your brother’s wife!” So Herodias had it in for John. She wanted to kill him, but she couldn’t. This was because Herod respected John. He regarded him as a righteous and holy person, so he protected him. John’s words greatly confused Herod, yet he enjoyed listening to him.

Finally, the time was right. It was on one of Herod’s birthdays, when he had prepared a feast for his high-ranking officials and military officers and Galilee’s leading residents. Herod’s daughter Herodias came in and danced, thrilling Herod and his dinner guests. The king said to the young woman, “Ask me whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” Then he swore to her, “Whatever you ask I will give to you, even as much as half of my kingdom.”

She left the banquet hall and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?”

“John the Baptist’s head,” Herodias replied.

Hurrying back to the ruler, she made her request: “I want you to give me John the Baptist’s head on a plate, right this minute.” Although the king was upset, because of his solemn pledge and his guests, he didn’t want to refuse her. So he ordered a guard to bring John’s head. The guard went to the prison, cut off John’s head, brought his head on a plate, and gave it to the young woman, and she gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard what had happened, they came and took his dead body and laid it in a tomb.

This is such a gruesome story! And one that I have misunderstood for a long time.

It was often used when showing that “the Church” was supposed to force rulers to bend to the “will of G_d.” But, as I later learned, that’s not really what’s going on here.

Now, granted, on the surface, that’s the way it reads. But the questions that often come up are, “Which law is John referring to? And how is it binding upon a Roman leader?” As was noted above, some see this as “proof” that the Bible is a “constitution” or a legally binding document or the rule book for everyone to follow. Each page has just as much authority as any other page. That it’s G_d’s last and “official” word for creation.

I can respect that.

But I disagree.

The problem that usually arises from this type of thinking is that all of that stuff is meant for the other person - not for the one pointing those things out! That is, when we hold others to such a high degree of scrutiny, we don’t do the same for ourselves. Often times we’ll pick and choose which parts apply to us and which parts apply to others (I’m always reminded of Paul’s confrontation with Peter on this.).

So, how do we address John’s statements to Herod? First, we need to realize that Herod was Jewish. His family was Idumean and the Idumeans had circumcision forced upon them around 125 BCE. It’s known that Herod followed the Jewish law when it seemed convenient (see the above paragraph). That is why John told him it was unlawful to marry his brother's wife (see Leviticus 18.16; 20.21). This brings us to a very good point that is so often missed.

Jewish prophets mostly turned the spotlight on their own people and not the foreigners. Just a casual glance through the prophets will see this. Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Malachi, etc., all brought charges of injustice to their own people. John and Jesus did the same thing.

So, while the passage is about speaking the truth to power, the power under question is the leaders of G_d’s people - not the mayor, or governor, or other political powers. The focus is on the leaders of our churches. The focus is upon us. Some of us spend an awful lot of time and energy pointing out the failures and faults of the “heathen,” while the whole time it’s we who need to repent.

This passage also demonstrates what happens when we question our spiritual leaders. It probably won’t go well for us. We’ll make enemies. We’ll be ostracized. We’ll be overlooked, ignored. We’ll be labeled troublemakers. And some of us will even be run out of the church. I’ve seen it happen time and time again. I’ve even experienced it (shocking, I know).

But that shouldn’t stop us! This is to what we’ve been called. We are to be Christ in the world - the “Word of G_d made flesh.” And part of that calling is to expose the falseness within our own traditions. But we must start with ourselves. While I know that none of us are perfect or holier than anyone else (and that’s the first rebuttal used against us when we point out that our leaders have missed it), we still have to hold each other accountable to be the best example of Christ we can be. We must be the best of humanity.

Lastly, this story shows that the pressures of “saving face” are extremely powerful! When confronted with the truth, Herod could have repented and potentially lost the respect of his peers and wife and perhaps even his daughter. But he would have been another point in history where “new creation” was manifesting. Instead, he chose to bow to the pressures of the systems of the world and an innocent man died because of it.

But that is exactly the life Christ has called us to. “Take up your cross daily and follow me,” he said. We must “deny” ourselves, he said. If we lose our lives, we’ll save them, he said. May we have the strength and courage to do this. To be Christ to those we meet. To manifest G_d’s Realm, the new creation, in all areas of our lives. No matter what the cost.



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

29 January 2013

Daily Gospel Reflection - 29 January 2013


Jesus left that place and came to his hometown. His disciples followed him. On the Sabbath, he began to teach in the synagogue. Many who heard him were surprised. “Where did this man get all this? What’s this wisdom he’s been given? What about the powerful acts accomplished through him? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t he Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” They were repulsed by him and fell into sin.

Jesus said to them, “Prophets are honored everywhere except in their own hometowns, among their relatives, and in their own households.” He was unable to do any miracles there, except that he placed his hands on a few sick people and healed them. He was appalled by their disbelief.

Then Jesus traveled through the surrounding villages teaching.

He called for the Twelve and sent them out in pairs. He gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a walking stick—no bread, no bags, and no money in their belts. He told them to wear sandals but not to put on two shirts. He said, “Whatever house you enter, remain there until you leave that place. If a place doesn’t welcome you or listen to you, as you leave, shake the dust off your feet as a witness against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that people should change their hearts and lives. They cast out many demons, and they anointed many sick people with olive oil and healed them.

“Don’t try to pretend you’re better than me! I know who you really are. People don’t change. You’re not fooling anybody!”

While I personally have never had anyone else say those things to me, I know I’ve said them to myself! And, I always think about them when I’m at home. That is, when I serve some where (or write this blog), I always feel like my family thinks this about me. Whenever my friends and I are talking at a pub about spiritual matters, I sometimes think they are thinking that way about me. Maybe it’s my own insecurities about my own failings and falseness. Whatever the case, I realize that I’m not alone. Jesus went through the same things. I think he may have even had the same self-doubt.

In Mark’s telling of the story, the opposition to Jesus has spread. It first started with the Religious Elite, then spread to his family, and now his home town community. This shows us the growing confrontation between the systems of the world and the Realm of G_d. It shows us the circle of influence. That is, we may feel that our lives aren’t making a difference. That our lone voice isn’t being heard. That our acts of kindness don’t seem to change anything in the “big picture.” But this shows us just the opposite. It reveals that every little bit helps. That G_d’s Realm does indeed grow, even through our (supposedly) lone efforts. The whole “mustard seed” imagery we looked at previously.

But, as the last section points out*, we aren’t alone in our endeavours. Sure, some places might not respond to us favorably. But that shouldn’t be seen as those places are without hope. Quite the contrary. Notice that Jesus sent his disciples to go to places that wouldn’t accept him. I see no reason not to think that one or two of them went back to Jesus’ hometown community. It takes all of us working together to manifest G_d’s Realm “on earth as it is in heaven.” As Paul wrote, “The one who plants and the one who waters work together, but each one will receive their own reward for their own labor. We are God’s coworkers, and you are God’s field, God’s building.”



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

~~~
* In the commentary for this section, the Oxford Bible Commentary (pg. 898) made the following statement regarding the description of what the disciples were to take on their mission:

“Some details remain obscure. Mark allows the disciples to wear sandals (v. 9: Q does not: cf. Lk 10:4).”

The reason I point this out is because “Q” doesn’t exist! It’s a hypothetical document. How could anyone make such an absurd statement! The commentator states this as fact, when there’s nothing to prove the assertion.

This upsets me because people who may not know that “Q” doesn’t exist, just accepts that it does because it’s in the Oxford commentary! It just sloppy scholarship, in my humble opinion, and shouldn’t be allowed to be used in this way. We have to be more accountable than this.

28 January 2013

Daily Gospel Reflection - 28 January 2013


Jesus crossed the lake again, and on the other side a large crowd gathered around him on the shore. Jairus, one of the synagogue leaders, came forward. When he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded with him, “My daughter is about to die. Please, come and place your hands on her so that she can be healed and live.” So Jesus went with him.

A swarm of people were following Jesus, crowding in on him. A woman was there who had been bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a lot under the care of many doctors, and had spent everything she had without getting any better. In fact, she had gotten worse. Because she had heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his clothes. She was thinking, If I can just touch his clothes, I’ll be healed. Her bleeding stopped immediately, and she sensed in her body that her illness had been healed.

At that very moment, Jesus recognized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and said,“Who touched my clothes?”

His disciples said to him, “Don’t you see the crowd pressing against you? Yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’” But Jesus looked around carefully to see who had done it.

The woman, full of fear and trembling, came forward. Knowing what had happened to her, she fell down in front of Jesus and told him the whole truth. He responded, “Daughter, your faith has healed you; go in peace, healed from your disease.”

While Jesus was still speaking with her, messengers came from the synagogue leader’s house, saying to Jairus, “Your daughter has died. Why bother the teacher any longer?”

But Jesus overheard their report and said to the synagogue leader, “Don’t be afraid; just keep trusting.” He didn’t allow anyone to follow him except Peter, James, and John, James’ brother. They came to the synagogue leader’s house, and he saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, “What’s all this commotion and crying about? The child isn’t dead. She’s only sleeping.” They laughed at him, but he threw them all out. Then, taking the child’s parents and his disciples with him, he went to the room where the child was. Taking her hand, he said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Young woman, get up.” Suddenly the young woman got up and began to walk around. She was 12 years old. They were shocked! He gave them strict orders that no one should know what had happened. Then he told them to give her something to eat.

I was sitting in the passenger seat of my friend’s car. Another friend was in the back seat. I had been going through a very dark place and had just received some devastating news. I was losing it. Everything was crashing around me and my foundations were shambles. My friends had no words of comfort. There were no great theological insights that dealt with the deep pain I was experiencing. Their only comfort for me was to sit and cry with me. We were all just blubbering idiots.

At one point, I told them, “You know, all of our years of biblical study don’t mean anything. All I know is...I have to be the woman with the issue of blood. If I just touch the hem of Jesus’ clothes, I’ll be okay. That’s all I have.”

I’m sure there are others that have been through similar issues. I think that’s part of the human experience. And there aren’t any good words of comfort when someone is hurting. I’ve seen too many hurting people hurt again by a word misspoken. Pat answers don’t help when one is hurting. It’s been my experience that most of life’s pain don’t have appropriate responses to the nagging questions. The best advice for those wanting to comfort others in great pain is just to be there. Be present. Make yourself available. Don’t judge. Don’t offer solutions. Don’t say things like, “I know how you feel,” or “Everything happens for a reason,” or “It’ll be okay,” or “It’s all part of G_d’s plan.” In every one of those responses there’s an air of ego. We can’t know how others feels about something simply because we’re not them. We know how we felt in our situation, but we can never really know how others feels, no matter how close we are to them.

Furthermore, we don’t know for certain what G_d’s will is for someone else (or even ourselves a lot of the time) or what the reason is for another’s pain or even if things will be “okay.” We simply don’t know. We aren’t suppose to know. Our best response is to just say, “I don’t know, but I’m here for you.”

~~~

In chapter three of her book, “Knowing Her Place: Gender and the Gospels,” Anne Thurston states that the two female characters in our Gospel reading today are forever linked together. She rightly (in my opinion) states that the number twelve is significant in that it refers to menstruation - one would have soon started and the other couldn’t stop. Of their encounter with Jesus, she writes:

“Two untouchable female bodies have been made whole. They are both ‘daughters in the faith.’ There are still boundaries, there are still insiders and outsiders, but the definition of what is ‘holy,’ of what is ‘clean,’ of what is ‘pure,’ has changed. It is faith and not rigid adherence to the letter of the law which opens access to the holy. Salvation is experienced in and through the bodies of women. These women are not simply restored to the community, they constitute a new community, one based on faith. This is why we should attend to the number twelve. Its use here, as in the story of the multiplication of the loaves, has a symbolic significance beyond that of linking the two female characters. The new Israel will include those isolated and rejected by sickness, by impurity, by disease. Faith overcomes even the final separation of death.

“Linking the two stories is not merely an interesting literary device but it also symbolizes the new inclusive community inaugurated by the ministry of Jesus...

“By interrupting the story of the healing of the daughter of Jairus, the narrator radically transforms it. Instead of a simple healing story it becomes a parable about faith, about inclusiveness, about the in-breaking of the reign of G_d. It is not simply the story about the healing of two women but about the healing of the imagination which challenges the disciples of Jesus then and now to transcend the restrictions by which they attempt to limit access to divine power” (pp. 22-23, amended).



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

27 January 2013

Daily Gospel Reflection - 27 January 2013


In Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate in the north city wall is a pool with the Aramaic name Bethsaida. It had five covered porches, and a crowd of people who were sick, blind, lame, and paralyzed sat there. A certain man was there who had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, knowing that he had already been there a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

The sick man answered him, “Sir, I don’t have anyone who can put me in the water when it is stirred up. When I’m trying to get to it, someone else has gotten in ahead of me.”

Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” Immediately the man was well, and he picked up his mat and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath.

The Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It’s the Sabbath; you aren’t allowed to carry your mat.”

He answered, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’”

They inquired, “Who is this man who said to you, ‘Pick it up and walk’?” The man who had been cured didn’t know who it was, because Jesus had slipped away from the crowd gathered there.

Later Jesus found him in the temple and said, “See! You have been made well. Don’t sin anymore in case something worse happens to you.” The man went and proclaimed to the Jewish leaders that Jesus was the man who had made him well.

As a result, the Jewish leaders were harassing Jesus, since he had done these things on the Sabbath. Jesus replied,“My Father is still working, and I am working too.” For this reason the Jewish leaders wanted even more to kill him—not only because he was doing away with the Sabbath but also because he called God his own Father, thereby making himself equal with God.

My wife and daughter have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia; an invisible syndrome that’s only recently been accepted as a “real” ailment. People with fibro look normal but they’re in constant pain. I can only imagine what that’s like. As I’ve gotten older, some of my old college injuries make their presence known on a daily basis. But it’s nothing compared to what my wife and daughter (and millions of others) suffer with daily. In all honesty, I’m stunned and humbled by their grace and strength under such anguish. They’re truly remarkable women.

The man in the story had been sick for almost forty years. And, because of his illness, he was an outcast of society. Furthermore, he was an outcast religiously. And, most likely, he was an outcast economically. So, this guy’s in a real pickle! And to top it off, he can’t get to the healing he needs.

Finally, when G_d’s Realm slowly started to “invade” our realm though the life and ministry of Jesus, the man was healed. Completely. Jesus tells him to take his belongings and leave. Of course, when the man is seen carrying his mat, some of the Religious Elite accuse him of breaking their Sabbath requirements. Once more we see that the arrival (and continued manifestation) of G_d’s Realm not only turns our social statuses upside down (or puts them right-side up), but the same thing is done to our religious systems. The manifestation of G_d’s Realm completely exposes our selfish systems and calls them into question.

We see this played out in the last scene of the story before us. Not only did the healing of the man expose the self-righteousness of the Empirical Religious System of the time, it also exposed the falseness of the man who was healed. That’s what G_d’s Realm does. It’s purpose is for G_d’s Realm to be “on earth as it is in heaven.” As it expands, the falseness in our world is exposed, brought into the light, and changes.



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

26 January 2013

Daily Gospel Reflection - 26 January 2013


Jesus and his disciples came to the other side of the lake, to the region of the Gerasenes. As soon as Jesus got out of the boat, a man possessed by an evil spirit came out of the tombs. This man lived among the tombs, and no one was ever strong enough to restrain him, even with a chain. He had been secured many times with leg irons and chains, but he broke the chains and smashed the leg irons. No one was tough enough to control him. Night and day in the tombs and the hills, he would howl and cut himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from far away, he ran and knelt before him, shouting, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!”

He said this because Jesus had already commanded him, “Unclean spirit, come out of the man!”

Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

He responded, “Legion is my name, because we are many.”

They pleaded with Jesus not to send them out of that region.

A large herd of pigs was feeding on the hillside. “Send us into the pigs!” they begged. “Let us go into the pigs!” Jesus gave them permission, so the unclean spirits left the man and went into the pigs. Then the herd of about two thousand pigs rushed down the cliff into the lake and drowned.

Those who tended the pigs ran away and told the story in the city and in the countryside. People came to see what had happened. They came to Jesus and saw the man who used to be demon-possessed. They saw the very man who had been filled with many demons sitting there fully dressed and completely sane, and they were filled with awe. Those who had actually seen what had happened to the demon-possessed man told the others about the pigs. Then they pleaded with Jesus to leave their region.

While he was climbing into the boat, the one who had been demon-possessed pleaded with Jesus to let him come along as one of his disciples. But Jesus wouldn’t allow it. “Go home to your own people,” Jesus said, “and tell them what the Lord has done for you and how he has shown you mercy.” The man went away and began to proclaim in the Ten Cities all that Jesus had done for him, and everyone was amazed.

There are a few things here that I find striking. The first is the confrontation between the Realm of G_d and broken systems of the world. These types of stories tell us that both realms are connected - interlocked and overlapped. What’s important about this is that G_d’s Realm is not limited to the spiritual world. Jesus’ confrontation with “Legion” shows us that G_d’s Realm was coming to earth, as we saw previously. While the casting out of Legion took place in the spiritual realm, the affects were displayed in the manifest realm. This leads us to the next point.

The expansion of G_d’s Realm “on earth as it is in heaven” can be expensive. The people in the neighboring communities were directly impacted by the deliverance and healing of this unknown man. Their livestock perished along with any sales or profit. To me, this shows that G_d’s Realm also confronts our economic models. And, sometimes, those models can’t continue when they come face to face with G_d’s Realm. Occasionally, we need to dissolve them altogether.

Lastly, G_d’s Realm also impacts our social constructs. The delivered and healed man was told to return to his home and people. He was to return to his community. He wouldn’t need to be marginalized any longer. G_d, through Jesus, had restored him.

From this familiar story, we see what it looks like when G_d’s Realm expands in the world. Do our lives reflect this? What would this look like in our families? At our jobs? In our social gatherings? In our communities? At our city council meetings? At our school boards? I know a lot of people feel that the political and public area is no place for “religion.” And I would somewhat agree. But this isn’t about “religion.” This is about living as Christ in the world. And as we saw, the life of Jesus impacts all areas of creation.



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

25 January 2013

Daily Gospel Reflection - 25 January 2013


Later that day, when evening came, Jesus said to them, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake.” They left the crowd and took him in the boat just as he was. Other boats followed along.

Gale-force winds arose, and waves crashed against the boat so that the boat was swamped. But Jesus was in the rear of the boat, sleeping on a pillow. They woke him up and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re drowning?”

He got up and gave orders to the wind, and he said to the lake, “Silence! Be still!” The wind settled down and there was a great calm. Jesus asked them, “Why are you frightened? Don’t you have faith yet?”

Overcome with awe, they said to each other, “Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey him!”

My wife touched my arm and was calling me name.

Well, “calling” is not the right word.

Yelling.

That’s the right word.

We had gone for a walk down the little stream dozens of times. This particular time, our daughter had brought a friend and we decided to stop by the “underwater bridge” and walk through the stream looking at the wildlife and taking another break from the heat.

As we started walking through the stream, I could feel the icy fingers of fear start at the base of my spine. In a flash, I was panicking. I tried calling out to my wife, but she seemed miles away. The fear was drowning me. It spiked in my brain. Everything went black.

In the next instance, my wife was standing next to me, calling my name.

Well, yelling it.

So I can understand the disciples fear.  Like a lot of life, things on the water can go from great to terrifying in an instant. One moment, everything was calm. The next? Instant terror. The boat was sinking. The wind and wave slamming hard against their little craft. Their teacher, sleeping.

Don’t you find it interesting that they accused Jesus of being uncaring or indifferent - “Don’t you care that we’re drowning?” I find it peculiar that they didn’t wake him to say the boat was sinking; that they didn’t try to save him. They wake him to accuse him! Isn’t that just like us? We lash out at people who are not the problem or are only trying to help us. Sometimes, we’re like a cornered wild animal - ready to fight when we feel threatened even those who are trying to rescue us.

And just like that, Jesus changes everything. Immediately he got up, spoke to the storm, and everything was normal again (which has always made me ask - did the water dissipate from the boat?). Then, he faces the others with simple, straight-forward, haunting questions - “Why are you afraid? Don’t you have faith yet?”

And, honestly, I think most of us don’t know the answer to those questions. Why are we afraid? Why don’t we yet have faith? Christ has come! G_d’s Realm is present! Heaven is here. Now.

But it’s unfamiliar.

Forgotten.

I think that’s it. That’s why we’re fearful and faithless.

We’re grown accustomed to prison.

Even though Christ has flung wide the doors and we have been set free, we’re comfortable in our cells. We know them. We understand them. Even though we’re free, we choose to stay in them.

We’re like the Israelites in Egypt. Sure, we may be slaves, but we know what to expect and what’s expected of us. We’ve never ventured outside the cell of our own prisons. We don’t know how to act. We don’t know how to be. We’ve become so accustomed to our addictions that we believe their lies. We’ve forgotten that our addictions aren’t us. We’ve forgotten who we really are at the deepest level. Then, when we’re confronted with Christ’s view of the story, like the disciples in their little boat, we ask dumbfoundedly, “Who is this?”

~~~

While attending a weekend with John Philip Newell about his book Christ of the Celts, I had an incredible experience. During one of the guided meditation sessions, I saw light reflecting off of the ripples of water. This was significant because we were meditating on the words, “It’s me. Don’t be afraid,” from the story of Jesus walking on the water. I had this overwhelming sense that Christ was telling me that he was the Light and Life within the water. My fears instantly vanished and hasn’t returned. Like the disciples, I’m in awe of this man whom, not only calms the winds and the seas in a physical sense, but calms the storm of our deepest fears and bring Light and Light to them.



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

24 January 2013

Daily Gospel Reflection - 24 January 2013


Jesus said to them, “Does anyone bring in a lamp in order to put it under a basket or a bed? Shouldn’t it be placed on a lampstand? Everything hidden will be revealed, and everything secret will come out into the open. Whoever has ears to listen should pay attention!”

He said to them, “Listen carefully! God will evaluate you with the same standard you use to evaluate others. Indeed, you will receive even more. Those who have will receive more, but as for those who don’t have, even what they don’t have will be taken away from them.”

Then Jesus said, “This is what God’s kingdom is like. It’s as though someone scatters seed on the ground, then sleeps and wakes night and day. The seed sprouts and grows, but the farmer doesn’t know how. The earth produces crops all by itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full head of grain. Whenever the crop is ready, the farmer goes out to cut the grain because it’s harvesttime.”

He continued, “What’s a good image for God’s kingdom? What parable can I use to explain it? Consider a mustard seed. When scattered on the ground, it’s the smallest of all the seeds on the earth; but when it’s planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all vegetable plants. It produces such large branches that the birds in the sky are able to nest in its shade.”

With many such parables he continued to give them the word, as much as they were able to hear. He spoke to them only in parables, then explained everything to his disciples when he was alone with them.

Jesus continues to tell stories about G_d’s Realm. Yesterday, he talked about it coming in the middle of history, not at the end of it like a lot of people thought (and some still do). Today, he talked about what it’s like and how it spreads.

In both stories, Jesus talked about G_d’s Realm like it was something being planted. Just as we plant flowers in an existing garden, water them, nurture them, weed them, with the intent that they will be grow and be beautiful, so G_d, through Jesus, “planted” the promised Realm.

But the growing is down in secret. That is, we don’t know exactly when the flowers start to grow. We don’t know when the seeds first begin to sprout or who the mixture of soil and water and sunlight feed the seeds. Likewise, we don’t know how or when G_d’s Realm takes hold in a person’s heart and life. The “seed” - the loving actions of a person - may have been planted long ago. It has taken time for that seed to break open the soil and grow deep roots. Then, after a time, the person starts to change her heart and mind. Her actions take on a new selflessness and care for the Other.

And those actions are like the branches of the tree. They’re not solely for the tree. They’re more for the care of the birds - the birds come and find homes and protection and nourishment from the tree. Likewise, The Way of Christ evidenced in a person’s life by their “fruit” or actions, will be for the care of others. Jesus is saying that there’s an interconnectedness here. The soil and the sun and the wind and the rain and the leaves and the fruit and the branches and the nests and all the rest are all connected. They all form the tree. Likewise, G_d’s Realm is connected to all of us and  we to it. We are all in G_d and each other.

This is why Paul could write, “Thanks be to God, who gives us this victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! As a result of all this, my loved brothers and sisters, you must stand firm, unshakable, excelling in the work of the Lord as always, because you know that your labor isn’t going to be for nothing in the Lord.”

Our actions matter. Our being Christ to others changes them and changes the world. It is this way that G_d’s Realm continues to be revealed in creation.



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC