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Showing posts from 2018

When you are truly free …

Morning: Psalm 72;Job 42:1-17; Acts 16:16-24;
Evening: Psalm 119:73-96; John 12:20-26
When you are truly free from the power of death, you let go of fretful concern and allow God’s way to rule your life.  This, in essence is the message Jesus sends back to ‘some Greeks’ who want to see him.  Freedom from the power of death is being willing to die to oneself, one’s own precious agenda, and one’s own over-weaning concerns, so that something entirely new and fruitful can grow in their place.  On the other hand, if you just hang on for dear life, you’ll miss all this.  Decisions, decisions!  Follow or not?

Freedom from the power of death

Morning: Psalms 61, 62; Job 40:1, 41:1-11; Acts 16:6-15
Evening: Psalm 68:1-36; John 12:9-19
Jesus rides a donkey into Jerusalem, bringing together two Hebrew traditions – Hanukkah and Passover – and thereby declaring Jesus to be the true king, come to free his people.  Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead, is central to this story.  For the power of death is not only the shocking finality of physical death but also the way that we can have the life sucked out of us by dehumanizing conditions and relationships.  The life of Jesus declares that death no longer need have power over human life … the Way of Jesus offers freedom from this power of death.

What do you think of Jesus?

Morning: Psalm 56, 57;Job 40:1-24; Acts 15:36 – 16:5
Evening: Psalms 64, 65; John 11:55 – 12:8
It’s a very human scene … Mary is at the centre, doing a shocking and unconventional thing for that culture, anointing Jesus’ feet with her hair.  Martha is serving, as she usually does.  Lazarus, their brother, whom Jesus raised from death, is likely there somewhere.  Judas, Jesus’ betrayer, is worrying about the budget and the poor.  Jesus evokes a different response in each one of them.  He probably still evokes widely varied responses in all of us, responses that determine the shape of our faith, or our doubt, or our questions … So what do you think of Jesus?

Our relationships are our real treasure

Morning: Psalms 24, 29:Job 38:1, 18-41; Revelation 18:1-8
Evening: Psalms 8, 84; Matthew 5:21-26
Reconciliation is the heart of faith.  St. Paul writes: “In Christ, God (is) reconciling the world to God’s self.” Right relationships – with one another, the earth, all its creatures, ourselves and God – must surely be a key objective for a life. As a chaplain, you are with a lot of people at the end of their lives – most, if not all, think nothing is more important than their relationships with those they love or those from who they are estranged.  Their main priority is always to be reconciled in their relationships before they die.  Better to do it sooner!

Jesus’s death a unifying force for humanity

Morning: Psalm 55;Job 38:1-17; Acts 15:22-35
Evening: Psalms 138, 139:1-17; John 11:45-54
At first they plot to kill Jesus because they fear the Romans might punish everyone for believing in him.  But one leader has a better idea … he thinks Jesus’s death will unite the whole nation.  That leader cannot have imagined how great a unifying force the death of Jesus would unleash … a worldwide movement to unite humankind around a common purpose.  Not only one oppressed nation will be drawn together by Jesus’s death, but all humanity will be drawn to the cause of justice and freedom, and the Way of Love that he represents.

Wounded Healers

Morning: Psalm 66;Numbers 21:4-9; John 3:11-17
Evening: Psalm 118; Genesis 3:1-15; I Peter 3:17-22
Last night in my town indigenous survivors of “Indian residential schools” in Canada bore witness to their desire for healing, reconciliation and freedom.  They do not want their suffering to imprison them or others in a spirit of hatred or anger.  Only the Peace of the Creator makes sense to them if we are going to build a better future together.  On this Holy Cross Day, we recall that the righteous suffering of Jesus is for our healing.  Last night, the compassionate and generous spirit of indigenous brothers and sisters made them ‘wounded healers’ for me.  Chi Miigwetch. Thanks be!

The Cross … instrument of Peace

Morning: Psalm 50;Job 29:1; 31:1-23; Acts 15:1-11
Eve of Holy Cross: Psalms 46, 87; I Kings 8:22-30; Ephesians 2:11-22
“The Cross” is probably the most universal and controversial of symbols. It stands not just for the wood of the Cross, but the whole event of Jesus’s suffering and crucifixion.  How can violence bring Peace?  I think it is that somehow Jesus’s suffering shows up the callous emptiness of political violence for what it is … and thus strips it of its power, leaving it ‘naked’.  Gandhi did that with the violent British Raj.  Martin Luther King did it with the violent racism of the American south.  “The Cross” is still the often necessary, courageous and authentic way to Peace.

Awakened by Jesus

Morning: Psalm 119:49-72;Job 29:1; 30:1-2, 16-31; Acts 14:19-28
Evening: Psalm 49; John 11:1-16
Jesus calls Lazarus’s death a “falling asleep”.  He goes “to waken” Lazarus.  But the story emphasizes this is not only about Lazarus being asleep; it’s about him being dead. Lazarus will finally die of course. So Jesus is not only bringing Lazarus back to life … he is calling all who live in the shadow of death and in the thrall of death’s power … he is calling them to “wake up” and live abundantly. Jesus’s mission is to wake humanity up to the value and importance of life here and now; it is what matters most about him.

To live well, practice Habits of the Heart

Morning: Psalm 45;Job 29:1-20; Acts 14:1-18
Evening: Psalms 47, 48; John 10:31-42
Who does not remember the impact on us all of the hatred, anger and misunderstanding expressed in the mass murder of ‘9/11’?  When religious purists wanted to kill Jesus for claiming to be “the son of God”, he called them to step beyond their narrow thinking into deeper understanding.  Alexis de Tocqueville, 200 years ago, said we need to find the courage to practice certain “Habits of the Heart” if we are to live well together with difference, celebrate our rich diversity, and teach our children the Way of Peace.

This shepherd is the real king

Morning: Psalms 41, 52;Job 32:1-10, 19 – 33:1, 19-28; Acts 13:44-52
Evening: Psalm 44; John 10:19-30
Have you seen idyllic pictures of Jesus the Shepherd carrying a lamb?  These pictures do not show the danger and controversy that surround Jesus.  His story is about his clash with the powerful rulers of this world.  Now Hanukkah is a festival celebrating Judas Maccabeus’s revolt and overthrow of the tyrant Antioches, who had desecrated the Temple.  Jesus chooses Hanukkah to teach in the Temple about God’s rule; he declares himself one with God.  More powerful than human rulers, the Good Shepherd is the real king.  No wonder the powers-that-be want Jesus out of the picture.

Salt that reveals the flavour of a new reality

Morning: Psalms 63, 98;Job 25:1-6; 27:1-6; Revelation 14:1-7, 13Evening: Psalm 103; Matthew 5:13-20
Jesus calls Israelites to be true to their laws – which they forget or misunderstand.  Jesus’s new reality invites his disciples to be true to his Way … They too forget or misunderstand.  Israel is a revolution to transform the ancient worship of idols; it has lost its way. The Jesus movement is a revolution to replace mere adherence to laws with a deep attention to the Spirit of a new reality; this Jesus movement may also have lost its way.  Jesus calls it back now, as then, to its purpose as salt … revealing the flavour of a new reality.

The good shepherd serves the servants

Morning: Psalms 30, 32; Job 22:1-4,21 – 23:7; Acts 13:26-43
Evening: Psalms 42, 43; John 10:1-18
Jesus’s parable about shepherds (king David was a shepherd) tells how good kings or rulers act. The good ruler acts on behalf of his people; he seeks not his own profit, but their well-being.  It’s easy to recognize a good ruler.  Kings, queens, presidents, prime ministers, premiers, yes and even parents, teachers, managers, coaches, are ‘good shepherds’ when they devote their lives (‘lay down their lives’) to serve others … ‘good shepherds’ serve God by serving people.  Then those people serve the world.  A ‘good shepherd’ serves the servants and keeps them safe.

I see … or maybe not

Morning: Psalm 31; Job 19:1-7, 14-27; Acts 13:13-25
Evening: Psalm 35; John 9:18-41
Often I think I understand something only to realize later that I don’t.  I’ve done it countless times.  What about you?  For me, it’s like this: I convince myself pretty effectively that I understand something.  But then, a light goes on and I realize I was wrong, in spite of feeling confident at first … Saying you see when you don’t is the flip side of saying you were paying attention when you weren’t.  Covering up your mistakes because you’re ashamed of them won’t heal you.

Want to see a New Creation? Look to Jesus

Morning: Psalm 37:1-18; Job 16:16-22; Job 17:1 13-16; Acts 13:1-12
Evening: Psalm 37:19-42; John 9:1-17
Ingrained in our culture is an old idea that goes something like this: Good things are rewards for good deeds, and bad things are punishments for misdeeds. Jesus debunks that. A man was born blind not because anyone did anything wrong … It’s that the Creation is still in process.  In reality, this is a chaotic world. God is bringing order and light, a New Creation, out of that chaos … Those once blind may now see.  John’s Gospel insists that if we ourselves want to ‘see’ this New Creation, built by God’s grace, we must look to Jesus.

What does Jesus mean? … keep reading …

Morning: Psalm 38;Job 12:1; 14:1-22; Acts 12:18-25
Evening: Psalm 119:25-48; John 8:47-59
Jesus is blunt and challenging with those who seek to incriminate him. He uses key words that show he closely identifies with God: “I AM”.  They want to stone him, saying he is demon-possessed … John would not have made this up to make him seem more authentic.  Jesus actually did and said astounding, shocking things.  But the Gospel writer does not explain; he simply carries on with the story … implying that he believes Jesus’s story speaks for itself … so: “If you want to understand what it all means, read the rest of the story!”

Discerning what is true takes time and effort

Morning: Psalm 26, 28;Job 12:1; 13:3-17, 21-27; Acts 12:1-17
Evening: Psalms 36, 39; John 8:31-47
So many contradictory news flashes!  How do you separate truth from lies?  They can’t all be true.  Many just trust the best-known liar!  Jesus, the best-known human being ever, said his disciples will discover truth that will set them free.  So what will you make of Jesus, who invites you to be his disciple and to trust him?  Will you? You have to decide. Give his story your careful attention; it may free you in ways you never thought possible.  It’s old and reliable, but cannot be told in 100 words or absorbed in a cursory glance.  Give it time.

How bad does it have to get before we listen?

Morning: Psalm 25;Job 12:1-6, 13-25; Acts 11:19-30
Evening: Psalms 9, 15; John 8:21-30
‘Cry wolf’ and people won’t listen in a real emergency.  But sometimes people don’t listen anyway.  Jesus warns … If we don’t follow God’s way, things will turn out badly. But it’s hard, even for him, to get people’s attention.  Today, a young girl is protesting outside the Swedish parliament for action about climate change.  It’s urgent, she insists … but they want her to go and study math!  For her, climate change is more urgent than school. She wonders … When will people understand the urgency of our predicament?  God knows, getting people’s attention isn’t easy!

‘Heaven’ cannot wait

Morning: Psalms 148, 149, 150;Job 11: 1-9, 13-20; Revelation 5:1-14
Evening: Psalms 114, 115; Matthew 5:1-12
Why do people think the Bible is a book of instructions?  No!! Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount is Good News that a new day is dawning, where the destitute will have all they need; mourners will be comforted; the world will belong to the gentle; those who hunger for justice will ‘feast’; the merciful will receive mercy; the pure in heart will see God; the peacemakers will be called the children of God; those who suffer for what is right will be satisfied.  Jesus is saying: Why wait?  You can live in the reality called ‘Heaven’ here and now.

Let light shine … in you

Morning: Psalm 20, 21:1-7; Job 9:1; 10:1-5, 16-22; Acts 11:1-18
Evening: Psalms 110:1-7, 116, 117;John 8:12-20
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.”  “Make of yourself a light,”said the dying Buddha.  Aretha Franklin, buried yesterday, was called “a beacon of humanity.” John McCain, whose funeral is today, said America should be a "beacon of liberty”.  Many believe light overcomes the darkness of evil.  This evil should not be confused with the ‘dark night of the soul’, an often-painful time of soulful self-encounter where many people confront evil and come more fully into their lives.  Light shines most beautifully through the best of our humanity, especially in those who have faced down the darkness.

For God, there are no backwaters

Morning: Psalms 16, 17;Job 9:1-15, 32-35; Acts 10:34-48
Evening: Psalm 22; John 7:37-52
Today is St. Aidan’s Day.  An Irish monk, Aidan was sent from remote Iona in Scotland as a missionary to the English.  In April, Mona and I were privileged to stay on Iona. Afterwards, we visited barren, windswept Lindisfarne island, where Aidan founded a new Christian community.  From Lindisfarne, Aidan gently taught the English the message of Jesus. Jesus’s contemporaries once wondered how he could come from such a humble place as Galilee.  It is a pattern in Christian history – Highly influential people (Aidan, Jesus) often work far from the centres of secular power.  For God, there are no backwaters.

Will you examine your deeply held convictions?

Morning: Psalm 18:1-20; Job 8:1-10, 20-22; Acts 10:17-33
Evening: Psalm 18:21-50;John 7:14-36
The authorities call Jesus an impostor when he reveals truths that contradict their version of reality.  Some observe the letter of the law, but would rather not explore the spirit of the law.  By pointing this out, Jesus threatens the whole edifice of their power.  It’s safer, in the short term, to deny the truth than to have it turn your life upside down.  Jesus always challenges, if we are not afraid to listen: … Are your convictions reasonable?  Do they serve the common good?  Or are they simply unexamined, habitual, and possibly mistaken, ways of seeing the world?

When you suffer, are you sustained by hope?

Morning: Psalm 102;Jeremiah 38:1-6; Revelation 7:13-17
Evening: Psalm 86; Judges 16:28-30; 1 Peter 3:13-18
We don’t usually choose to suffer (who would?) but hope helps us endure it – for healing; for someone we love; for country; for the world. Suffering for faith needs hope too, unless it comes from blind, pathological obedience to twisted ideals.  But when we suffer in the cause of Love, can we say what we hope our suffering might accomplish?  Perhaps the way we confront our own suffering will help others learn courage?  Suffering without hope is meaningless.  With hope, we accept suffering as one inevitable part of our being made for Love in a still imperfect world.

God in the flesh

Morning: Psalms 5, 6;Job 6:1-4, 8-15, 21; Acts 9:32-43
Evening: Psalms 10, 11; John 6:60-71
Last night, someone wondered why it’s difficult to spark people’s interest in being Jesus’s disciples.  According to John, many stop following Jesus because he stirs up such controversy … people always find Jesus challenging. What people balk at in every age is the belief that, in Jesus, the actual Word of God takes flesh in a human life.  You can spiritualize this, but that just makes Jesus a good man and strips him of his awesome importance for humanity.  He is much more, John is saying, so shockingly and tantalizingly all at once … Jesus is God in the flesh.

Drink my blood … What’s this about?

Morning: Psalms 1, 2, 3;Job 4:1, 5:1-11, 17-21, 26-27; Acts 9:19b-31
Evening: Psalms 4, 7; John 6:52-59
King David refused to drink water brought by his 3 bravest warriors from the well in occupied Bethlehem: “Can I drink the blood of these men? For at the risk of their lives they brought it.”  In saying we must drink his blood to be fully alive, Jesus echoes this story of David … So, if we ‘drink’ Jesus’s blood, we accept what he does, not only risking, but giving his life.  We accept that his suffering and death actually overpower the power of death.  But don’t expect anyone to explain this in 100 words … or in a lifetime!

Faith recognizes grace for what it is

Morning: Psalms 146, 147;Job 4:1-6, 12-21; Revelation 4:1-11
Evening: Psalms 111, 112, 113; Mark 6:1-6a
In Nazareth, Jesus could do no deeds of power; the handyman’s son could not convince his own townspeople.  Today’s Gospel is about how faith influences not only healing but all human experience.  I don’t mean, “Ask for anything in faith and you’ll get it.”  That’s too simplistic.  But faith does entrust life to a power greater than our own.  Unbelief excludes anything that lies beyond my understanding.  Belief consents to Divine possibilities.  Of course, God often acts whether we consent or not; all the everyday miracles are pure grace, unbidden and free.  Faith simply recognizes grace for what it is.

Drawn to Jesus

Morning: Psalms 137:1-6, Psalm144; Job 3:1-26; Acts 9:10-19a
Evening: Psalm 104;John 6:41-51
I did not one day decide to follow Jesus; I was ‘drawn’ by him.  C.S. Lewis says he was “decided upon”.  What attracts me is that Jesus so often befuddles me – saying things like ‘I am bread’.  Then I must decide … try to make sense of it, or judge it to be nonsense.  I am glad I was drawn to Jesus … he doesn’t make things simple, nor give me everything I want.  His life is, in many ways, a mystery, but, oddly enough, a mystery that makes sense to me … Does that make sense to you?

Jesus is like a mirror to show us who we are

Morning: Psalm 86;Genesis 28:10-17; John 1:43-51
Evening: Psalm 15, 67; Isaiah 66:1-2, 18-23; 1 Peter 5:1-11
This is St. Bartholomew’s Day; and do we ever need the humility that Jesus saw in him!?  Now, if someone asks, “Who here is humble?” and you raise your hand, you’re probably not!  Humility is a gift that grows when ego needs diminish.  Forces within and without have us caring too much about our own power and privilege.  It is not part of our created nature to lord it over others, but we need help from beyond ourselves if we are to be true to ourselves.  Jesus is a like a mirror, who helps us to see our true humanity

The dangerous passage to freedom

Morning: Psalms 131,132; Job 1:1-22; Acts 8:26-40
Evening: Psalms 134, 135;John 6:16-27
Jesus walks on water in 3 of the Gospels … This story comes up often in a 2-year cycle of readings.  It’s a key story for people whose foundational narrative is the Exodus – Moses leading the nation from slavery to freedom through the Red Sea.  Jesus is the ‘new Moses’, confronting the storms that afflict people now and inviting them to trust that, in God’s strength, they can weather these storms.  The crowds watching just want Jesus to give them more bread; Jesus wants his followers and the crowds to take courage and embark on the dangerous passage to freedom.

Power is for service, not for personal gain

Morning: Psalm 119:145-176; Judges 18:16-31; Acts 8:14-25
Evening: Psalm 128, 129, 130; John 6:1-15
News stories abound of priests and pastors who abuse their power to sexually exploit minors.  Shocking!  Shouldn’t we be able to trust spiritual leaders!?  Yet in reality, most of us – from parents to politicians, grandparents to aunts and uncles, older siblings to bosses or religious leaders – may find ourselves in a position to exploit the vulnerable.  In Acts, someone even offers money to buy from the apostles the power to confer the Holy Spirit on others. Peter teaches that we should not seek power, nor use it in order to exploit people for our benefit, but rather, to serve them.

Truth needs witnesses

Morning: Psalms 121, 122, 123;Judges 18:1-15; Acts 8:1-13
Evening: Psalms 124, 125, 126; John 5:30-47
On Sunday, the former mayor of New York and lawyer to the US President said, “Truth is not truth”, and caused a media storm.  Truth is elusive in this and every age. Jesus himself said, “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true.”  Both meant: Truth is what objective witnesses verify.  We must then judge whether those witnesses are credible.  If the truth of Jesus must be measured against the testimony of credible witnesses, it’s not too much of a stretch, is it, to demand the same of the (lowly-by-comparison) president of the USA, or anyone else?

Life finds a way

Morning: Psalm 106:1-18;Judges 17:1-13; Acts 7:44-8:1a
Evening: Psalm 106:19-48; John 5:19-29
25 years ago, Jeff Goldblum’s character in Jurassic Park said: “Life, uh, finds a way.”  Jesus, the apprentice of the Creator, brings life from death. This is the theme of John’s Gospel … Jesus invites us to be “born from above” into a quality of life that is ‘eternal’.  Who has not experienced the power of death?  So the invitation to reallylive is compelling  – Though our little lives are short, Life itself is eternal and, uh, finds a way.  We are invited to embrace Life. As for the particulars of the Way … we shall see.

Reaching out in faith

Morning: Psalm 118;Judges 16:15-31; 2 Corinthians 13:1-11
Evening: Psalm 145; Mark 5:25-34
‘Reaching out’ to anyone is transformative.  Both are changed.  A woman in the crowd around Jesus, unknown to him, reaches out believing he can heal her bleeding disorder.  He knows someone has touched him; meanwhile, she is healed.  He feels a change in himself; she gets better.  How such miracles occur is beyond our power to investigate.  But Jesus wasn’t a magician; the woman’s faith was the vital factor in her healing.  The story seems to ask – Is there something about Jesus that makes you want to reach out in faith to him, to be transformed by his mysterious power?

Saturday August 18th – Give it a rest

Morning: Psalm 107:33-43; Psalm 108:1-6; Judges 16:1-14; Acts 7:30-43
Evening: Psalm 33:John 5:1-18
Yesterday, my computer chose not to wake up … I may have become too dependent on it?  Try as I might to rouse it from sleep, I could not.  I found a piece of advice on-line: “leave it to rest for 30 hours and then try again.”  Today, about 30 hours later, at the computer store, a young technician pushed 4 keys together and the sleeping Mac awoke!  A message for me maybe?  There is a right time for everything … the time I forget to observe too often is rest-time. Well, my ‘resting’ computer taught me a lesson, eh!?

Faith accepts that I do not yet know what I need

Morning: Psalm 102;Judges 14:20—15:20; Acts 7:17-29
Evening: Psalm 107:1-32; John 4:43-54
It’s popular nowadays to ask people what they need.  ‘Needs assessments’ assume, however, that we know what we need.  Jesus points out that we are often only interested in satisfying physical cravings, not realizing it’s spiritual ‘food’ that we need.  We will trust God if we get what we want – miraculous wine or bread.  The royal official in today’s story is different, though … he trusts God first, and then receives what he needs.  Faith is not faith if it depends on getting what you want.  Faith steps into the unknown expecting that there, its unknown needs will be met.

Satisfy spiritual hunger with Love

Morning: Psalm 105:1-22; Judges 14:1-19; Acts 6:15—7:6
Evening: Psalm 105:23-45;John 4:27-42
Imagine Jesus so excited he cannot eat!  His meeting with a social outcast, trapped in a life of immorality, transforms her life - she comes to herself. Jesus realizes the news of Love he brings is exactly what she and everyone need.  He doesn’t tell about Love; he lives it.  She can be herself with him, she feels valuable, she does not need to hide her deepest longings from him.  Jesus satisfies her spiritual hunger with Love and Hope.  This is the ‘food’ everyone needs most, until all who hunger are fed.  Amazingly, Love also ‘feeds’ whoever gives it.

Mary … of mothers, sons & brotherhood

Morning: Psalm 113, 115;1 Samuel 2:1-10; John 2:1-12
Evening: Psalm 45, 149; John 19:23-27
Religious culture often depicts Mary and Jesus so removed from human experience as to appear unreal. But Jesus’s earthiness is what appeals to me.  So, as he is dying, in a display of everyday humanity, Jesus turns to “the disciple whom he loved” (probably John), and says, in effect, “John, my brother, take care of Mom; and Mom, take care of my brother – he’s your son now.” Mary is down to earth, too.  By then, she has many children … yet there is room for one more in her affections.  And Jesus wants someone to care for her too.

Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater!

Morning: Psalm 97, 99;Judges 13:1-15; Acts 5:27-42
Evening: Psalm 94; John 3:22-36
Christians have sometimes been persecuted and ridiculed.  In today’s story from Acts, Gamaliel, a wise council member, advises those who want to persecute Jesus’s followers: “Keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them.”  So, were 80 generations of Christians mistaken?  No, the wisdom of Gamaliel still suggests that something about this Jesus movement is ‘of God’.  Some parts may be misguided, but don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.

You don’t need to ask a person if they were born

Morning: Psalm 89:1-18;Judges 12:1-7; Acts 5:12-26
Evening: Psalm 89:19-52; John 3:1-21
Soul-full, spiritual maturity in a person is immediately recognizable.  When someone draws on deep spiritual wisdom, you know it.  They show a dash of humility, a pinch of patience, a modicum of kindness, the ring of truth and the aroma of love.  They trust a power greater than their own.  This is what Jesus meant when he said that if people are to see God’s dream for humanity and for the world, they must be ‘born from above.’  When they are, it’s obvious. They don’t necessarily call themselves ‘Christian’… Some follow Jesus’ Way without knowing it.

When are you going to get real faith?

Morning: Psalms 66, 67;Judges 11:1-11, 29-40; 2 Corinthians 11:21b-31
Evening: Psalms 19, 46; Mark 4:35-41
The story of Jesus calming the storm – Lake Galilee can be very dangerous – is a microcosm of the larger story of God’s providence … that the powers of evil and chaos will not prevail in the end.  Life throws all kinds of troubles in our direction and we have a choice: we can face them with faith; or be overwhelmed with fear.  Faith leaves you free to respond to the inevitable crises; but fear takes away your freedom and leaves you prone to just 2 Corinthireact.  Which is why Jesus challenges the disciples to start putting their faith in God.

The Earth as a Temple

Morning: Psalms 87, 90;Judges 9:22-25, 50-57; Acts 4:32-5:11
Evening: Psalm 136; John 2:13-25
For many of the indigenous peoples of the earth, the land and the heavens are holy – they honour and protect the earth as a holy place, where we are at one with the universe and with ourselves. Jesus throws the money-changers out of the Temple because they ruin the holy place of prayer, the place of meeting with God.  I cannot help thinking of the world as a Temple, too, and that it’s time we started treating it as the holy place of meeting that it is, and not just as a market-place, full of valuable resources and commercial opportunities.

A taste of new wine

Morning: Psalm 88;Judges 9:1-16; Acts 4:13-31
Evening: Psalms 91, 92; John 2:1-12
Jesus’s miracle of wine from water shows his radical newness: “no-one keeps the best wine until last.”  Jesus represents the promise that, in the end, everything will be made new.  The other Gospels tell how ‘new wine’ breaks old wineskins. But our world urgently needs the new paths Jesus calls us to tread. Surely the couple from the wedding at Cana lived the rest of their lives with extra zing and vitality because of the new and vital energy that Jesus helped them to taste on their wedding day.  When you think you’ve tasted everything … suddenly, a new vintage!

God beside you

Morning: Psalm 145; Judges 8:22-35; Acts 4:1-12
Evening: Psalms 85, 86;John 1:43-51
Nathanael, who is “genuine through and through”, is astonished that Jesus knows what kind of man he is, just from seeing him in passing.  Jesus reminds him that, at Bethel, Jacob dreamed of a ladder connecting earth and heaven.  In effect, Jesus says: ‘Come with me and you’ll see something even more astonishing than a Messiah … You will see earth joined to heaven, a reality beyond your imagining.  Come and see!  Can you imagine it … that God is beside you? It’s what Jacob dreamed of; it’s what you will actually see.’

Come and see … this is for everyone

Morning: Psalm 119:97-120;Judges 7:19 – 8:12; Acts 3:12-26
Evening: Psalms 81, 82; John 1:29-42
Near the beginning of John’s Gospel, John calls Jesus “the Lamb of God”, who by his death will heal Israel’s separation from God, like the sacrificial lambs of old.  John’s message is radically different, though, because Jesus is ‘the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world.’  Jesus does not only restore the broken relationship between Israel and the Creator; Jesus heals the whole creation by bringing it into right relationship with the Creator. Jesus calls his disciples: “Come and see” (including us if we choose) and share in this healing work.  There is lots of it to do!

In the Wilderness … hope!

Morning: Psalm 78:1-39;Judges 7:1-18; Acts 3:1-11
Evening: Psalm 78:40-72; John 1:19-28
John the Baptist said he was: “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’”  Our present-day world can feel like a bewildering wilderness … What values to follow?  How to live well?  Yet if you remain connected to One who is a Source of hope for the world, you will not be overwhelmed or give up.  John invested all he had in Jesus, and believed that people would find hope in him. We who hope as John did still trust that the Way of Jesus holds the key to the world’s healing.

We do not lose heart; there is a light Source

Morning: Psalms 2, 24;Exodus 24:12-18; 2 Corinthians 4:1-6
Evening: Psalm 72; Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; John 12:27-36a
There are many reasons to lose heart, to throw up your hands and withdraw.  From the spread of disruption and disinformation to the sheer volume of information in the media; it can feel overwhelming.  How to sift through it all?  Phew! But St. Paul insists … “We do not lose heart.”  There is still Light to challenge darkness; it burns within us.  So, as the old proverb says: ‘Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.’  To not lose heart, though, you must spend at least a little time each day plugged in to the light Source.

Sharing, sharing, sharing

Morning: Psalms 93, 96; Judges 6:1-24; 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
Evening: Psalm 84; 2 Corinthians 3:1-9, 18
The relatively new “share” option on Facebook echoes the time-honoured practice of generosity, encouraged by St. Paul – and taught to Canadian Beaver Scouts!  Paul says Christians are themselves “a letter” written on hearts of flesh … they share not just ideas (like FB memes), but their very selves.  Generosity – a reflection of God’s generosity in Creation and in life itself – is sharing that multiplies opportunities for kindness.  One act of generosity may trigger a domino effect of generosity on a massive scale – millions of “shares”!! Imagine! The Good News is that the indescribable gift of life’s goodness is for sharing.

Faith tells the story of Love; believe it or not

Morning: Psalms 75, 76; Judges 5:19-31; Acts 2:22-36
Evening: Psalms 23, 27;Matthew 28:11-20
Denial doesn’t want to believe.  Denialism denies truth – climate change, the Holocaust – creating another ‘truth’.  The chief priests pay the soldiers to say Jesus’ resurrection is a hoax – that’s denialism.  But the disciples see Jesus, who tells them to spread his Way of Love.  Faith trusts experience – love, relationship, and story.  Believers are not in denial any more than unbelievers.  Faith just responds to a different kind of truth.  No-one can prove that love, relationship, or story, are untrue; Faith cannot prove they are.  Faith can only tell about the experience of Love.  You believe that or you don’t.

Stephen, courageous witness to a new truth

Morning: Psalms 28, 30;2 Chronicles 24:17-22; Acts 6:1-7
Evening: Psalm 118; Acts 7:59-8:8
Stephen serves tables to free the apostles for their important work of prayer and the Word.  Stephen is an exemplary servant. He also becomes a powerful teacher about the truth he finds in Jesus, and that brings him into confrontation with the religious authorities.  The evil foibles and failings of religious authorities are nowhere more evident than in the stoning and martyrdom of Stephen.  They respond to Stephen with arrogance, judgement and murder.  People of faith now, however, must open hearts and minds to strangers who speak truth in unexpected ways.  Uncomfortable truth – but truth – often springs from unlikely sources.

Do you want to know the truth? We can help

Morning: Psalm 71; Judges 4:4-23; Acts 1:15-26
Evening: Psalm 74;Matthew 27:55-66
Michiko Kakutani’s recent book, The Death of Truth, describes tellingly how truth is endangered in our times. Some deliberately obscure truth ... about climate change, poverty or injustice.  After Jesus’ death, the power elite lied, calling him an impostor, because he challenged their power by seeking justice.  They said: ‘make (the tomb) as secure as you can’. Ultimately, we believe that you cannot shore up the truth against those who seek to twist it or manipulate it.  But isn’t that because we also know that the truth needs our help, and we are ready to give it?

You may feel alone; but you are never forsaken

Morning: Psalm 72;Judges 3:12-30; Acts 1:1-14
Evening: Psalm 119:73-96; Matthew 27:45-54
After a fabulous, restful summer holiday, the story of Jesus’ crucifixion brings me down to earth again with a bump! Jesus makes this human journey with us. And his cry from the Cross echoes our own cry when, in distress, we find ourselves alone: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Some human experiences are earth-shattering; the earth moves under our feet.  Yet the earthquake and the voice that follow Jesus’ cry may be God’s answer … When everything has been shaken, what remains is that we are children of God; never entirely alone, not forsaken … ever.

Leaving things in Jesus’ hands (I will be taking July off … See you in August).

Morning: Psalms107:33-43,108:1-13; Numbers 20:14-29; Romans 6:1-11
Evening: Psalm 33;Matthew 21:1-11
It is striking to me that today’s Gospel story is Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, the beginning of his final encounter with the powers-that-be, his final humble stand for justice and truth.  We all know the outcome of his work … both that he died because of his stance against unjust power, and that the movement that arose from his life still thrives and grows in the world after 2000 years.  I can definitely leave things in Jesus’ hands … not just for a month, but for life, right!?  

I will be taking July off …See you in August.

Peter and Paul, apostles of Jesus

Morning: Psalm 66;Ezekiel 2:1-7; Acts 11:1-18
Evening: Psalms 97, 138; Isaiah 49:1-6; Galatians 2:1-9
Today we celebrate Peter and Paul, the greatest leaders of the early Jesus movement.  They sacrificed assumptions, religious prejudices, and even their lives, to be true to their experience of Jesus. We celebrate them still, though they would not have wanted anyone to speak well of them, only to be true. Why do people accept falsehood?  Peter and Paul would probably say it’s because they haven’t found the truth yet.  Peter and Paul died to share the truth about life, as they had heard it from Jesus, and as they had experienced it in him.  I’m glad they did.

Leadership is not about privilege, but sacrifice.

Morning: Psalm 105:1-22;Numbers 17:1-11; Romans 5:1-11
Evening: Psalm 105:23-45; Matthew 20:17-28
Jesus’ leadership contrasts starkly with our current trend towards egotism, authoritarianism and the offering of simplistic solutions for complex problems.  Jesus’ understanding of leadership is simple, but in no way simplistic:  “If anyone wants to be great, he must be your servant.”  Speaking about himself, Jesus says he: “didn’t come to have servants obey him, but to be a servant.”  When a leader says, without consultation, “This is what is going to happen …” I cringe.  When a leader asks, “Tell me how I may be of service to you,” hope springs.  Leadership is not about privilege, but sacrifice.

You cannot earn Love … you do not need to.

Morning: Psalm 101, 109:1-30;Numbers 16:36-50; Romans 4:13-25
Evening: Psalm 119:121-144; Matthew 20:1-16
“The last will be first and the first last”.  In yesterday’s Gospel, these same words pointed to the irony that riches make fullness of life elusive.  Today’s Gospel is a reality-check for any disciple of Jesus who thinks himself more worthy than the Johnny-come-lately who has done much less work.  How easily we fall into making comparisons – Jesus warns us not to.  Love extends gracious generosity to all, without distinction, and in equal measure.  Where Grace is found, there is no lasting human hierarchy of status, or wealth, or value. You cannot earn Love … you do not need to.

Jesus’ great new world

Morning: Psalms 97, 99;Numbers 16:20-35; Romans 4:1-12
Evening: Psalm 94; Matthew 19:23-30
Jesus offers a ridiculously impossible image – a camel going through the eye of a needle – to explain how difficult it is for one burdened by the cares and preoccupations of wealth to experience fullness of life.  In fact, it does not work. Thus, he turns the priorities of the world upside down – the ones now at the back of the line will find they are served first, and the ones now at the front will have to wait until last.  Such is the unexpected newness of the great new world Jesus ushers in on the earth ... something completely different!

Am I so attached to my stuff that I can’t be free?

Morning: Psalm 89:1-18;Numbers 16:1-19; Romans 3:21-31
Evening: Psalm 89:19-52; Matthew 19:13-22
They try to keep children away from Jesus … children should be kept quiet; out of the way … They have too much unpredictable, bubbly, uncontrollable energy.  But that’s exactly what Jesus welcomes.  He relishes the freshness of children, because they are free, not attached to too many things that they can’t let go of.  Jesus tells the young man that he needs one thing if he is to be whole – he must stop clinging to his possessions.  But that is too much for him.  He can’t let himself be free.  So he cannot experience a truly full life.

John the Baptist: The Bridegroom’s Friend

Morning: Psalm 82, 98;Malachi 3:1-5; John 3:22-30
Evening: Psalm 80; Malachi 4:1-6; Matthew 11:2-19
In a lovely wedding yesterday, I witnessed Martin and Lesley pledge their hearts to each another.  How justly pleased the groomsmen were for Martin.  The Hebrew Bible tells that one day the Messiah will make Israel his ‘bride’ … this marriage metaphor shows God’s deep love for humanity, represented by one nation. For Christians, Jesus is this Messiah.  When Jesus the ‘bridegroom’ comes to his ‘bride’, Israel, his friend John the Baptist is anything but the jealous groomsman; John beams with joy as his friend comes to serve the people of Israel and finally to make all peoples his ‘bride’.

Keep your doubts to yourself; I have enough of my own

Morning: Psalms 87, 90;Numbers 13:31—14:25; Romans 3:9-20
Evening: Psalm 103; Luke 1:5-23
John Wolfgang von Goethe, German writer and politician, wrote: “Give me the benefit of your convictions, if you have any, but keep your doubts to yourself, for I have enough of my own.”  Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, doubted Gabriel’s news that Elizabeth, his wife, would bear a child – she had not been able to before.  You could understand Zechariah having doubts, right!?  But his reward for doubting was to become mute until John was born … he would now have to keep his doubts to himself!  Ouch! … hence the modern expression of disbelief, “Shut up!”

How hard it is to forgive, and how painful not to

Morning: Psalm 88;Numbers 13:1-3, 21-30; Romans 2:25—3:8
Evening: Psalms 91, 92; Matthew 18:21-35
A friend admitted how hard forgiveness is.  Jesus says, Forgive always!  If you don’t, you suffer – not as punishment, but because not being able to forgive is itself a painful, inner torture.  God does not inflict suffering; it comes from disturbances in the natural order.  When you cannot forgive, your world is off-kilter and you suffer turmoil. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus connects experiencing forgiveness with the ability to forgive.  When I cannot forgive, maybe it’s that I myself feel unforgiven in some way?  I pray my friend will be able to make peace and find relief.

How important each one of us is

Morning: Psalm 34;Numbers 12:1-16; Romans 2:12-24
Evening: Psalms 85, 86; Matthew 18:10-20
No matter how small or seemingly insignificant we are, in Jesus’ vision no one is less important than anyone else … Even if just one of a great multitude gets lost, she is worth finding and saving from harm. Shepherds take extreme care over lost sheep; shall we not care just as much for a person who is isolated or in trouble?  Two people who agree are enough to guarantee the truth.  However few we are, however small we feel, God is in our midst … Imagine! The Creator and Lord of the Universe is with me? Little me!?

Violating a sacred trust by exploiting children

Morning: Psalm 119:97-120;Numbers 11:24-33; Romans 1:28—2:11
Evening: Psalms 81, 82; Matthew 18:1-9
This week, we witness the plight of migrant children separated from their parents in America.  Jesus teaches: “Whoever becomes humble like (a) child is (great).  Whoever welcomes (a) child in my name welcomes me.”  A world that exploits the weakness and vulnerability of children – and justifies barbarity by Biblical proofs – is far from the kingdom of heaven.  Shockingly, all over the world, children are trafficked, enslaved, used as human shields and child soldiers.  The implication of Jesus’ words is clear: the mistreatment of children violates a sacred trust and threatens our humanity until we put a stop to it.

Wisdom to choose the right moment

Morning: Psalm 78:1-39;Numbers 11:1-23; Romans 1:16-25
Evening: Psalm 78:40-72; Matthew 17:22-27
Every Jew paid a tax for the maintenance of the Temple in Jerusalem.  It was part of the politico-religious system that Jesus called out as exploitative, corrupt and ultimately doomed … a ‘den of thieves’.  One day it would fall, but this was not the time or place for Jesus to take a stand … the right moment to challenge the authority of the Temple and its rulers would come soon, in Jerusalem.  Sometimes we are compelled to challenge the spiritual forces of evil in this present age, and, like Jesus, we must choose wisely how, where and when.

Faith is drawing on a power greater than your own

Morning: Psalm 80;Numbers 9:15-23; 10:29-36; Romans 1:1-15
Evening: Psalm 77; Matthew 17:14-21
Early on, Jesus sends the disciples to heal the sick, raise the dead and cast out demons, and they do!  Now, with all their experience, they can’t.  Jesus is angry with them for their “little faith”.  Their problem is not the size or amount of their faith, but that their faith is misplaced … they are relying only on their own strength. Even Jesus himself needed prayer and fasting to empower him.  It’s easy to forget … Your own strength may be small, but when you draw on a power greater than your own, you can move mountains.

Ready anytime for whoever shows up

Morning: Psalms 93, 96;Numbers 6:22-27; Acts 13:1-12
Evening: Psalm 34; Luke 12:41-48
“Heads up, the boss is coming!” “Look lively … visitors from head office.” Familiar lines, these, but I find being-on-my-best-behaviour just when I ‘have’ to dreary and demeaning. Is anyone completely happy with his work?  No, some things must be done, like it or not, whether the boss is coming or not.  If I do them it’s because I trust that life is essentially good; that’s why I’m trustworthy.  Jesus suggests that when I realize how much I have received, I live gratefully, without counting what everything costs me.  And I’m ready anytime for whoever shows up.

Listen to him

Morning: Psalms 75, 76;Numbers 3:1-13; Galatians 6:11-18
Evening: Psalms 23, 27; Matthew 17:1-13
Listening seems to be fashionable these days – I’ve heard 2 listening ‘experts’ interviewed lately on the CBC, as if listening were a new discovery.  But listening is old wisdom that we keep forgetting … Now they’ve rediscovered it again, as though for the first time.  Listening is a new panacea for human ills!  You know, I agree; I think to myself: It’s about time we learned to listen again.  Up on the mountain, Jesus’s apprentices hear a voice: “… listen to him!”  I think to myself: It’s about time we did that too.

Life for Life

Morning: Psalm 69:1-23, 31-38;Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:14; Galatians 5:25-6:10
Evening: Psalm 73; Matthew 16:21-28
Peter’s faith is like a “rock”, but he cannot accept that Jesus will lose his life because of his message.  Peter resists and becomes a “stumbling-block”.  Jesus’ message draws lethal resistance from the powerful ones who resist the transformation he brings.  The Way of Jesus demands that, as his apprentice, you must be ready to offer your life.  This rarely means you have to die for him.  But, as many of Jesus’ followers discover, the moment you stop grasping at life is the moment you discover what an amazing gift life is.

On this rock

Morning: Psalms 70, 71;Ecclesiastes 11:1-8; Galatians 5:16-24
Evening: Psalm 74; Matthew 16:13-20
When Newfoundlanders hear the phrase, “On this Rock,” they think it’s about their beautiful island.  Well, it is about the solidity that characterizes that place, its capacity to weather storms and remain steadfast of character and spirit.  When Peter recognized who Jesus really was – somehow, incredibly, the power of the cosmos in human flesh – and when he worked up the courage to say it, Jesus said, now there’s something solid to build on, a faith that will see you through.  Build on that faith and you will overcome … even against all the powers of evil!

Beware of what tastes good but isn’t

Morning: Psalm 72;Ecclesiastes 9:11-18; Galatians 5:1-15
Evening: Psalm 119:73-96; Matthew 16:1-12
Have you felt tempted to eat a tasty morsel laden with unhealthy ingredients?  Sweet cakes tempt me. Some of the stories about Jesus are stories about the feeding of multitudes. These stories act like parables to encourage you to nourish your soul with goodness … with the kind of truth, justice and love shown in Jesus.  But, Jesus’ warns about the ‘leaven of the Pharisees’.  In other words, beware of ways of living or believing that are untrue – do not live a lie, or be untrue to yourself.  These may seem attractive but they will not nourish your soul.

The eternal longing for freedom … fulfilled in us

Morning: Psalms 61, 62;Ecclesiastes 8:14—9:10; Galatians 4:21-31
Evening: Psalm 68:1-20, 24-36; Matthew 15:29-39
Isaiah(35) envisions Israel’s deliverance: “The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.” Jesus fulfils this vision.  He feeds multitudes, too, on a mountain … echoing Isaiah(25)’s mountain vision of a great feast for all peoples. Still today, people yearn for sight, to hear and be heard, to walk, and to find their voice.  Still today, the world longs for its deep spiritual hunger to be fed.  Tell them deliverance is coming ... be part of it.