28 August 2016

Lectionary Reflection—28 August 2016

Keep loving each other like family. Don’t neglect to open up your homes to guests, because by doing this some have been hosts to angels without knowing it. Remember prisoners as if you were in prison with them, and people who are mistreated as if you were in their place. Marriage must be honored in every respect, with no cheating on the relationship, because God will judge the sexually immoral person and the person who commits adultery. Your way of life should be free from the love of money, and you should be content with what you have. After all, he has said, “I’ll never leave you nor abandon you.” This is why we can confidently say,

Yahweh’s my helper,
and I won’t be afraid.
What can people do to me?

Remember your leaders who spoke God’s word to you. Imitate their faith as you consider the way their lives turned out. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever!...So let’s continually offer up a sacrifice of praise through him, which is the fruit from our lips that confess his name. Don’t forget to do good and to share what you have because God’s pleased with these kinds of sacrifices.

I’ve been to different churches over the years and, in most of them, I’ve felt like an outsider. Not from the people (usually), but from the service itself. A lot of churches won’t let others take Eucharist if they don’t fall into some arbitrary category—not a member of that particular parish or congregation, not a member of a certain denomination or tradition, haven’t gone through that particular church’s training or confirmation class, or whatever other reason that humans come up with. Deep down in my bones, I don’t think anyone should be kept from sitting at table with Jesus and the saints. We’re all part of the same family—God’s family—and human rules shouldn’t keep people away from the table of Christ.

Priscilla’s admonition here is to love each other like family. And that means to love others the way the forgiving father loved the wayward son (Luke 15.11-32). Jesus said, “Love each other just as I’ve loved you” (John 15.12; see John 13.34). Do we love this way? When we look into each human face, do we see our sisters and brothers? Do we love them like we love our own?

This type of love, we’re told, treats others with the same dignity that we’d want to be treated with if we were in their situations. Again, this is what Jesus said was expected of the people who follow him (Matthew 7.12).

Loving others in the Way of Jesus is to see them as equals, as members of our family. There’s no distinction between “them” and “us.” There’s only “us.” Christ removed the divisions between us and made us one people (Ephesians 2.14-16). If we’re followers of The Way of Jesus, this is our world-view. In fact, this was on the mind of Christ before his crucifixion. In his final moments with his followers, Jesus prayed:

I pray they’ll be one, Father, just as you’re in me and I’m in you. I pray that they’ll also be in us so that the world will believe that you sent me. I’ve given them the glory that you gave me so that they can be one just as we are one. I’m in them and you’re in me so that they’ll be made perfectly one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you’ve loved them just as you loved me” (John 17.21-23; adapted).

May this be our prayer, too.

In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

21 August 2016

Lectionary Reflection—21 August 2016

Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. A woman was there who’d been disabled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and couldn’t stand up straight. When he saw her, Jesus called her to him and said, “Woman, you’re set free from your sickness.” He placed his hands on her and she straightened up at once and praised God.

The synagogue leader, incensed that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, responded, “There are six days during which work’s permitted. Come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath day.”

The Lord replied, “Hypocrites! Don’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from its stall and lead it out to get a drink? Then isn’t it necessary that this woman, a daughter of Abraham, bound by Satan for eighteen long years, be set free from her bondage on the Sabbath day?” When he said these things, all his opponents were put to shame, but all those in the crowd rejoiced at all the extraordinary things he was doing.

October 26, 1881. The time was about 3:00 p.m. The place was the O.K. Corral in Tombstone Arizona. On one side was Billy Claiborne, Billy and Ike Clanton, and Frank and Tom McLaury. On the other side was Doc Holliday and Virgil, Morgan, and Wyatt Earp. The two groups were roughly 6 to 10 feet apart. Town marshall, Virgil Earp, said, “Throw up your hands.” Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton drew and cocked their pistols. Virgil yelled, “Hold on! I don’t mean that!”

Then the shooting began.

One of the most famous gunfights in American history was over in roughly 30 seconds. Everyone was either wounded or dead.

Except Wyatt.

That’s what this story from Luke feels like. Jesus and the synagogue leader seem to be battling each other about how things are supposed to be and who’s supposed to be the true leader. The synagogue leader’s holding on to the old traditions and he feels threatened by Jesus and The Way Jesus represents. And the reason the synagogue leader feels threatened is because, if Jesus and The Way he’s leading takes hold, it means the end of the old traditions, his old way of living, his old way of being. The Old Way will have to die (Matthew 10.39 ; 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; 17:3; John 12:25). And like most people when we feel threatened, the religious leader lashed out.

“There are six days during which work’s permitted,” the synagogue leader said. “Come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath day.” The woman and Jesus weren’t following the traditional rules. But that’s the way Love works. Love isn’t bound to traditions or rules or any of that. Love knows no bounds (1 Corinthians 13.4-8).

“Hypocrites!” Jesus replied. “Don’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from its stall and lead it out to get a drink? Then isn’t it necessary that this woman, a daughter of Abraham, bound by Satan for eighteen long years, be set free from her bondage on the Sabbath day?”

Love exposes our hypocrisies and inconsistencies. We always seem to see the sins of others so clearly but are blind to our own. The hypocrisy Jesus exposed wasn’t their care for the animals on the Sabbath. It was the way the religious community—and by extension, the rest of the community because of religious tradition—saw the woman as being less than human and even less than the animals. Jesus wasn’t referring to the leading the animal out to get a drink. It was that they showed more kindness, compassion, and love to their animals than they did to their own sister “of Abraham.” But instead of repenting of their sin, they highlighted Jesus’ breaking of their religious tradition.

But that’s exactly the unnatural human condition, isn’t it. When someone points out an area of weakness, instead of humbly acknowledging that weakness, we instantly point out the inconsistencies of the one who exposed us. And for a plethora of examples, one only needs to turn to this political season. When the actions of one candidate are uncovered, instead of that candidate taking responsibility for them, a spotlight is quickly shown on the actions of the opponent.

Too often, I feel, we’re more concerned about who created the planet than we are about taking care of it. We’re more concerned about the Olympics than we are about the cities and countries that host them. We’re more concerned about Ryan Lochte than we are about Omran Daqneesh. And if we have to Google the name of the second and not the first…well…you get my point.

In a letter to his fellow monks at Luxeuil monastery, St. Columbanus (543-615 CE) wrote, “Love has nothing to do with order.” The Way of Jesus is the Way of Love. It doesn’t care about the “rules” of humanity or governments or even religions. Indeed, Love pushes against those rules used to imprison the children of God until they break.

When following The Way of Jesus, do we disrupt social and religious traditions? Do our actions and words provoke uneasiness with the religious establishment? Does the Love of Christ compel us to action that threatens the established religious and societal norms? Or are we following the traditional rules?

In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

19 August 2016


I’ve been sitting on some news for a while now that only a handful of people knew about. But I can finally let everyone else in on the secret!
I was one of a group of contributors working with Kenneth R. McIntosh for a new study Bible from Anamchara Books—The Celtic Study Bible!

The final release dates have been confirmed:

E-book release dates:
Introduction: 16 September 2016
Matthew: 16 October 2016
Mark: 16 November 2016
Luke: 16 December 2016
John: 16 January 2017
Acts: 16 February 2017

Physical book (all e-book sections):
17 March 2017--St Patrick's Day!

I’m so humbled and honored to be part of such a project. If you have an interest in Celtic Christianity, you might find this Bible a helpful resource.

In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

14 August 2016

Lectionary Reflection—14 August 2016

“I came to cast fire upon the earth. How I wish that it was already ablaze! I have a baptism I must experience. How I’m distressed until it’s completed! Do you think that I’ve come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, I’ve come instead to bring division. From now on, a household of five will be divided—three against two and two against three. Father will square off against son and son against father; mother against daughter and daughter against mother; and mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Jesus also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud forming in the west, you immediately say, ‘It’s going to rain.’ And indeed it does. And when a south wind blows, you say, ‘A heat wave’s coming.’ And it does. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret conditions on earth and in the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret the present time?”

A lot of people don’t like these verses from Luke. “I don’t think Jesus would’ve said that,” they exclaim. “Well, my Jesus wouldn’t talk that way,” others contend. This poses a huge problem. If we find passages that don’t agree with our sensibilities, we’ll probably start ripping out a lot of the Bible (metaphorically speaking). And when we get enough of us together who do that, we might not have anything left in the Bible except the maps!

When we read things like the passage above, it’s supposed to challenge us, to make us think and ask the hard questions. That’s the point. We’re supposed to be having our lives changed by what the Spirit is saying to us through the Bible not changing the Bible to suit our feelings.

So what do we make of the passage above? In my mind, this all ties to the then coming war with Rome. Jesus used the personal pronoun “you” roughly seven times in the passage above, clearly speaking directly to the people standing around him. He said that they can understand the weather but can’t understand the significance of Jesus being with them. His presence is the incarnation of God (see Malachi 4). He’s returned to his people and found them wanting. Indeed! They’re so far removed from God that they can’t even tell when God’s walking among them.

However, some will see and understand. But because of this understanding, their families will be divided. They’ll claim that Jesus was God’s Messiah and that God’s bringing judgement upon Israel. If they want to be rescued from God’s soon coming wrath, then they’ll follow Jesus. Can you imagine the outcry from their families? We don’t have to imagine, though, for they’re recorded in the Scriptures. And the outcome of this division is recorded in history with Josephus’ War of the Jews, which chronicle Rome’s sacking of Jerusalem and Temple.

But what does this tell us today? Is there nothing for us? I think there is. Following Jesus is still divisive—and by essentially the same type of people. That is, the religious people don’t really like the Jesus of the Bible. You know, the one who welcomed sinners? The one who was a “drunkard and a glutton”? The one who had women and other marginalized people whom society deemed “unclean” for his disciples? The one who stood with the refugees and outcasts? The one who said to love God, your neighbors, and your enemies? That Jesus causes division.

And any time someone stands up for peace and reconciliation of all people, there will be division. Any time someone proclaims #blacklivesmatter, there will be division. Anytime someone says that all people should be able to marry whom they love, there will be division. Anytime someone says that we should stop giving our money to the super-rich and use it to help the poor, there will be division.

So, following Jesus—being Jesus—will cause division to a lot of the religious people and a lot of the non-religious people, too. Following The Way of Jesus is not for the faint of heart. But it’s the only way of bringing God’s Realm to our hurting world. It takes courage to follow The Way of Jesus. May the Spirit of God pour out Grace and Courage to be Christ to the world.

In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

07 August 2016

Lectionary Reflection—07 August 2016

“Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights in giving you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to those in need. Make for yourselves wallets that won’t wear out—a treasure in heaven that never runs out. No thief comes near there, and no moth destroys. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be too.

“Be dressed for service and keep your lamps lit. Be like people waiting for their master to come home from a wedding celebration, who can immediately open the door for him when he arrives and knocks on the door. Happy are those servants whom the master finds waiting up when he arrives. I assure you that, when he arrives, he’ll dress himself to serve, seat them at the table as honored guests, and wait on them. Happy are those whom he finds alert, even if he comes at midnight or just before dawn. But know this, if the homeowner had known what time the thief was coming, he wouldn’t have allowed his home to be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Human One’s coming at a time when you don’t expect him.”

Okay, confession time. I really don’t like it when the lectionary breaks up sections like this. The first bit is a summary of a larger section dealing with inheritance, greed, and anxiety (verses 13-31). It starts out with someone asking Jesus to tell their sibling to give their share of the family inheritance. Jesus responds with statements about greed and then tells a story about a person who has so much wealth, that he decides to tear down his storage units and build bigger ones to keep all of his stuff. But they guy dies that very night. Jesus then offers the first section of our passage today.

This section is not about all of us selling our possessions and give all the proceeds to the poor. Rather, Jesus is talking about what Buddhism call “detachment” or “non-attachment.” “The root of suffering is attachment,” says the Buddha. Jesus is telling us to see our “things” as not being ours alone but for everyone; life will be easier.

This concept is all throughout Christian history. In the book of Acts, it states—

The community of believers was one in heart and mind. None of them would say, “This is mine!” about any of their possessions, but held everything in common. The apostles continued to bear powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and an abundance of grace was at work among them all. There were no needy persons among them. Those who owned properties or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds from the sales, and place them in the care and under the authority of the apostles. Then it was distributed to anyone who was in need (Acts 4.32-35).

The Didache, a late first or early second century document, states—

…If someone takes from you what’s yours, don’t ask for it back. You really can’t.

Give to every one who asks you, and don’t ask for it back. The Father wants his blessings shared. Happy is the giver who lives according to this rule, for that one is guiltless. But the receiver must beware; for if one receives who has need, he’s guiltless, but if one receives not having need, he shall stand trial, answering why he received and for what use. If he’s found guilty he shall not escape until he pays back the last penny (1.4-5; adapted).
There are several monastic “rules” that speak of this, too—

This vice especially is to be cut out of the monastery by the roots. Let no one presume to give or receive anything without the Abbot’s leave, or to have anything as his own—anything whatever, whether book or tablets or pen or whatever it may be—since they’re not permitted to have even their bodies or wills at their own disposal; but for all their necessities let them look to the Father of the monastery. And let it be unlawful to have anything which the Abbot hasn’t given or allowed. Let all things be common to all, as it’s written (Acts 4:32), and let no one say or assume that anything is his own (Rule 33 of St. Benedict, 6th century CE; adapted).

Whatsoever little or much you possess of anything, whether clothing, or food, or drink, let it be at the command of the senior and at his disposal, for it’s not befitting a religious to have any distinction of property with his own free brother (Rule 3 of St. Columba, 6th century CE; adapted).

Monks…must [diligently] guard against [greed], seeing that it’s wrong for them not only to be possessed of [excesses], but even to desire them. It’s not what they possess that matters, but rather how their wills are affected by their possessions. Those who’ve left all things to follow Christ the Lord with the cross of daily [reverence] have treasure in heaven. Therefore, as they’re to possess much in heaven, they ought to be content with little, nay, with the barest necessaries on earth, remembering that in monks [greed] is a leprosy… (Rule 4 of St. Columbanus, 6th century CE; adapted).

Again, Jesus’ point is we should hold our possessions loosely and be ready to give things away to anyone in need.

The last section belongs with the whole chapter; it can’t really be isolated as a separate piece. And while it certainly has to do with a refocusing of people’s lives around service, the last statement is quite telling. Jesus isn’t making a universal statement about readiness for his return—he’s making a clear statement to his contemporaries. “You (i.e., his immediate audience) also must be ready, because the Human One’s coming at a time when you (the same people) don’t expect him.” His point here is that the first followers shouldn’t be so attached to anything so that when the time comes—when the Romans come as God’s agents of justice against Israel—they’ll be able to leave at a moment’s notice without any hesitation (cf., Luke 9.57-62).

So, this section from our lectionary is part of larger question—mainly how to deal with possessions, being wary of greed and anxiety, and how to counter them. And while Jesus is specifically addressing his contemporaries about the coming war with Rome and all of the concerns therein, his words speak to us even today. As followers of the Way of Jesus, we’re to hold our stuff lightly, to view our things as not ours alone. We’re to view ourselves as stewards of our things and give them freely to anyone who asks for them. This is a hard thing for a lot of us. May God grant us the grace and strength to hear and do what the Spirit is saying to us.

In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC