Thursday, February 26, 2015

Cross Purpose

Christ Carrying the Cross (detail)
Titian, 1560

Psalm 22:23-31

You who fear the LORD, give praise! All you of Jacob's line, give glory.
     Stand in awe of the LORD, all you offspring of Israel.
For the LORD does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty;
neither is the LORD's face hidden from them;
     but when they cry out, the LORD hears them.
From you comes my praise in the great assembly;
     I will perform my vows in the sight of those who fear the LORD.
The poor shall eat and be satisfied,
     Let those who seek the LORD give praise!
     May your hearts live forever!   
All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD;
     all the families of nations shall bow before God.
For dominion belongs to the LORD,
     who rules over the nations.
Indeed, all who sleep in the earth shall bow down in worship;
     all who go down to the dust, though they be dead,
     shall kneel before the LORD.
Their descendants shall serve the LORD,
     whom they shall proclaim to generations to come.
They shall proclaim God's deliverance to a people yet unborn,

     saying to them, "The LORD has acted!" 

As we anticipate this Second Sunday in Lent, please consider what it means for you to take up your cross and follow Jesus. I've been asking people all week that very question. I've asked it, too, of my self.

The gospel reading this Sunday from Mark includes the first time that the word cross is mentioned in that account. Jesus says:
If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me (Mark 8:34).
We all know what it means to bear a burden or shoulder a load. Specifically, what does cross bearing look like in our lives. What is the purpose?

Since I'm on the rebound from carpal tunnel surgery, I'm going to stop typing anymore here. Please take the time to consider what it means for you to take up your cross and follow Jesus.  Meanwhile, may we prepare our hearts and minds for worship this Sunday.  See you there!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Inside Job

"The Peaceable Kingdom with the Leopard of Serenity," 
by Edward Hicks, a painting from 1846-1848. 

Before you continue reading much further, take a moment and look in your Bible.  Read Genesis 2:4-9, 15-17 and Mark 7: 14-23. These readings are the basis for the reflection that I am sharing below.

Many of you, I suppose, have heard of the Franciscan author, Fr. Richard Rohr.  A friend of mine says that Fr. Richard doesn’t have an unpublished thought. I agree that sometimes reading Rohr is like drinking from a fire hose (though I’ve never tried that). I do find much upon which to meditate, especially in his newest tome, Eager to Love, in which he shares the following:
Less than one percent of humanity since the beginning of time has had access to church, sacraments, trained ministers, formal religious education, the Bible, or even reading itself.  That does and should tell us something. The only thing we all have in common is that we all “sin,” transgress, fall into imperfection, and fail (Romans 5:12).  We are also sinned against as the victims of others’ failure and the social milieu. Augustine called this inherited wound “original sin.” (Richard Rohr, Eager to Love, page 106)
These origins of ours are hinted at in our first reading today from Genesis.  This indeed is the calm before the storm.  All is well.  The LORD God is still on the scene, hands on, Adam (human) and Adamah (dirt, clay), provision, abundance, life, freedom, boundaries . . . It’s all good!

Flash forward:  In the gospel reading, we find ourselves in the thick of the gathering storm.  

Levitical expectations are being tampered with and debated.  
And it may seem like another chicken and egg argument.

Tensions are growing.  Tempers, no doubt are flaring. . . 

Jesus had just fed the five thousand, he walked on water, people were amazed, utterly astounded, their hearts were hardened . . . and yet, wherever Jesus went, people rushed about, bringing the sick to him.  And wherever he went, people were begging him . . . that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak . . . 

And in the midst of all this mission and ministry, the Pharisees and some of the scribes started griping because they noticed that some of Jesus disciples hadn’t washed their hands before coming to the supper table.

Then what happens is what always happens when establishment types, or those operating out of a sense of entitlement, feel like they are loosing control: MAJORING IN MINORS.  Rather than worrying about the logs in their own eyes, they focus on the specks in the disciples’.  Oh how typical.
Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”   (Mark 7:14-15)
Could we say it the other way around?  There is nothing inside a person that by going out can clean/save, but the things that come in are what save.

What comes to us from the outside?   Word, Sacrament, Forgiveness, acceptance, welcome, blessing, caring, grace, etc.

The problem is, there a lot of things “out there” that we can take in, receive, and incorporate in our lives.  But not all of them, probably not even most of them, are life-giving.  

When we try to fill ourselves, when we consume in order to feel better, those things and that behavior are symptoms of an inner illness.  We become easily confused by the many and various alternatives to God.  There are so many other idols that do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. They are cunning, baffling, and powerful. And before we know what we are doing, we have given ourselves over and into the will of a god that ultimately leaves us as we are:  defiled, defeated, dead.

Although salvation comes to us from outside ourselves, it take action inside -- action which necessarily involves our cooperation. It’s always an inside job.  

In the midst of our storms, may we all attend to the voice of Jesus and understand that we are loved from the inside out so that we might love one another.  

In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen