Monday, December 31, 2018

“You got to have a dream”

Morning: Psalms 46, 48; Isaiah 62:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:16-6:2
My parents’ South Pacific record had a song with the line: “You got to have a dream; if you don’t have a dream, how you goin’ to have a dream come true?” John of Patmos dreams of the new reality that is coming, a new heaven and a new earth, a new human community where Love is at home …  Don’t we all share such a dream?  Oh that we might keep inviting Love to make its home in us – as individuals and as communities.  Is this ‘pie in the sky’?  No, even realists ‘got to have a dream’.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Joseph: a wise and honourable man

Morning: Psalms 93, 96; Isaiah 62:6-7, 10-12; Hebrews 2:10-18
Joseph is Jesus’s father ... Biological paternity is not fatherhood.  While Joseph knows he did not father Mary’s child, he is persuaded that God has special plans for the child.  Joseph accepts that he will be the child’s father.  History has focused on Mary’s virginity.  However, in Isaiah’s prophecy, the Hebrew word ‘almah’ is used and it means, simply, a ‘young woman’ will conceive and bear a son.  That’s what matters. Joseph accepts that Jesus will be better served by having a real human father to nurture his growth to adulthood than by worries about how Mary got pregnant.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Water for the thirsty soul

Morning: Psalm 18:1-20; Isaiah 60:1-5; Revelation 1:1-8
Water is scarce in many parts of the world.  We all depend on water, especially those in desert lands.  There is another kind of desert … the inner wilderness of the human heart, when you long for refreshment or relief from life’s burdens, or when a sense of purpose eludes you.  Jesus affirms that trusting him and his Way will be like experiencing a refreshing stream bubbling up within us.  Most people know what an inner wilderness experience feels like.  Spiritual well-being is knowing where to find water when your soul is thirsty.

Friday, December 28, 2018

How easy it is to betray others to protect myself

Morning: Psalm 26; Isaiah 26:1-9; Colossians 1:20-29
Some go to terrible lengths to maintain their grip on power or status.  King Herod is afraid that Jesus will challenge his power and promote justice.  So Herod murders children to try to get rid of Jesus … Innocent people often suffer when the unjust and powerful try to manipulate the truth because it threatens to expose their abuse of power.  Both followers and opponents of Jesus can misunderstand and misrepresent him as is convenient for them.  May I resist using my power to betray the vulnerable (or anyone else) in order to preserve my own reputation or privilege.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Jesus invites us to live humanly

Morning: Psalms 148, 149, 150; Isaiah 25:1-9; Colossians 1:11-19
Like any adolescent human, Jesus stays behind in Jerusalem without his parents’ knowledge.  When they find him, he asks, “What’s the problem?” One mistake in Christianity is to over-spiritualize Jesus and obscure his humanity.  But Jesus is a real human being.  Gregory of Nazianzus, a 4th-century bishop affirmed, “Jesus couldn’t help humanity to be healed if he was not human.”  Being human is not about being messed up; when we think that, it leads us to excuses like: “I’m only human.”  Being human is dignity and grace.  Jesus lives a truly human life.  He invites us to live humanly too.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Who will save the earth?

Morning: Psalm 145; Isaiah 12:1-6; Hebrews 1:1-12
Simeon and Anna are elders who both recognize that the child Jesus is destined for greatness … he will save his people and his land from their troubles.  We called my own first-born son Simeon, praying that in his lifetime he too might recognize how the Way of Jesus can help the earth and its inhabitants.  He is now 38, but I still pray this for my son; I still trust the Way of Jesus to guide the human species, if we allow it, out of our troubles and into paths of peace and fruitfulness.  May it be so.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

The unavoidable Christmas story

Morning: Psalm 2, 85; Zechariah 2:10-13; I John 4:7-16
The Gospel says that Jesus comes as a messenger from God, full of God’s Spirit.  This is the unavoidable Christmas story, whether one accepts it or not … that whoever trusts Jesus will find life. But for the one who rejects what Jesus stands for (Love, Peace, Hope, Justice, Joy), things will probably not go well.  The ‘not going well’ part was once called ‘God’s wrath’.  Well, the disruption caused by human hatred, war, despair, injustice and sorrow could very well feel like heavenly wrath … that disruption is what Jesus came to mend.

Monday, December 24, 2018

The most astounding thing imaginable!

Morning: Psalms 45, 46; Isaiah 35:1-10; Luke 1:67-80
If it is true that Jesus is God, but did not exploit this fact, and instead emptied himself, becoming like a slave, being born in human likeness … If it us true that God humbled himself even to death on a cross … If this is true, it is the most astounding thing imaginable, right!? – Like, you can’t make this stuff up, eh? –  If it is true, and yet thus far you have doubted him, you may wish you had given Jesus a second chance.  Who can say any more reliably that his story is untrue?  Believing is seeing.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

When silence is not an option

Morning: Psalms 93, 96; Isaiah 33:17-22; Revelation 22:6-11, 18-20
Evening: Psalms 148, 150; Baruch 4:21-29; Luke 1:57-66

They are logging old growth forest in BC.  My daughter, horrified, is a sort of prophet of a better future, where nature is valued not plundered.  All his life, Zechariah (John Baptist’s father) has trusted the prophets who proclaimed their hope in a better future, but Zechariah is struck dumb when he doubts that his aging wife can give birth to hope.  When John is born, hope kindles again; Zechariah bursts with joy and is silent no longer.  There is yet hope of a better future for earth and its peoples. We proclaim that vision. Silence is not an option.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

When you allow God to touch your life …

Morning: Psalm 80; Isaiah 29:13-24; Revelation 21.22-22:5
Were it not for the stories of Jesus’s resurrection, we might not have any stories of his conception and birth; they were written after his death.  Jesus’s mother Mary’s amazing humility and holiness greatly influenced those who wrote the story of her son, Jesus; and his story has defined subsequent history.  Mary’s song celebrates that compassion and justice will prevail in human life.  Mercy, strength, kindness, generosity and faithfulness are touchstones for Jesus and for us.  But these qualities do not express themselves through our own efforts; they arise when a person – like Mary – allows God to touch her life.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Let it be … wisdom that gives birth to love

Morning: Psalm 72; Isaiah 28:9-22; Revelation 21:9-21

[Computer died, hence the silence … 3 days later we’re back up.  No Easter miracle required … computer was not resurrected; we got a new one!] Paul McCartney says his song, ‘Let it be’, is about his mother comforting him.  But she comforts him using the words of Mary, mother of Jesus.  Her ‘let it be’ accepts her destiny and God’s will.  Even if you do not believe in God, the wisdom of both these mothers-Mary is that they welcome what comes, they let it be.  And wisdom gives birth to love.   Always.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Born to confront the power of death

Morning: Psalms 41, 52; Isaiah 8:16-9:1; 2 Peter 1:1-11
One week before Christmas Eve, the Gospel of Jesus’s arrest and crucifixion carries a stark reminder … The Christ-child we now celebrate eventually suffers and dies while confronting evil on behalf of his people.  Jesus seeks to protect his disciples from suffering the same fate that befalls him. Realistically, Peter and the others need to escape so they can continue Jesus’s work; their own day of trial will come soon enough.  Evil inevitably confronts every child that is born; we all have to tackle evil in our lives. Jesus wants us to be ready for that challenge.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Transformation of the Heart

Morning: Psalms 63:1-8, 98; Isaiah 13:6-13; Hebrews 12:18-29
With his focus on repentance, John Baptist sees that we really need not only repentance that leads to a change of behaviour, but repentance that leads to a change of heart.  So John said: “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming ... He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” What Jesus offers is utterly transformative on a deep level … he addresses not surface dirt that can be washed off; he addresses the deep wounds of the soul and invites an inner transformation of the heart

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Despite misunderstandings, we press on

Morning: Psalms 30, 32; Isaiah 8:1-15; 2 Thessalonians 3.6-18
Jesus’s relationship with his disciples is fraught by opposition, doubt, misunderstanding and denial of his mission and purpose.  This may be the experience of anyone with a particular vision or special vocation.  Peter promises to remain true, but Jesus knows that Peter will deny him, for fear of persecution or violence.  In spite of human failure, though, God’s work continues, even through those who fail.  In spite of his denial, Peter carries on Jesus’s work.  Thus, we are not discouraged when people misunderstand what we’re after; we press on.  In the end, perhaps they will catch the vision too.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Servanthood is the measure of greatness

Morning: Psalm 31; Isaiah 7:10-25; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5
When Jesus eats the Passover supper with his friends, he says that one of them is about to betray him.  Sure enough, before long, some of them start arguing about who is the greatest among them, probably already denying that they could possibly be the ones who would betray Jesus.  And yet, their argument is itself already a kind of betrayal.  Jesus does not want his disciples to behave like this, jostling for position, favour and power.  Betrayal comes in many forms.  Servanthood is the measure of greatness.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

A meal to remember

Morning: Psalm 37:2-18; Isaiah 7:1–9; 2 Thessalonians 2.1-12
Last night friends invited us to dinner … a lovely chance to get better acquainted, and an opportunity to share honest challenges.  When Jesus wants to give his disciples a way to understand and remember him, he gives them not a talk but a meal.  At Passover, Jewish people celebrate their rescue from Egyptian oppression. Jesus now offers himself to deliver humanity from the power of evil.  In a meal with his friends before being betrayed and called a liar, Jesus gives us a meal by which to remember that the power of evil is defeated; its days are numbered.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

People who live in glass houses …

Morning: Psalm 38; Isaiah 6:1–13; 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12
“People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” was a common saying in my childhood family.  We all live in ‘glass houses’ … none of us is perfect.  The woman ‘caught in adultery’ is a case in point.  When Jesus says, “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone”, he rejects the thought that some might be more or less perfect than others.  We all make mistakes, therefore we all owe mercy to one another and deserve mercy from one another.  We also owe it to ourselves and to one another to try to do better.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Keeping awake is about patience

Morning: Psalms 26, 28; Isaiah 5:13-17, 24-25; I Thessalonians 5:12-28
Jesus tells his followers to ‘keep awake’ because there are people, in every generation, who discredit faith … In Jesus’s time and now, they challenge: ‘Why follow Jesus?  It isn’t working!’  They choose to forget what followers of Jesus have patiently accomplished down the ages – the end of slavery, hospitals, schools, lives transformed.  It’s too easy to point just to the human failures.  So keep awake, urges Jesus … Keep awake to all the good that comes from his Way of being in the world.  Hold firm.  Be patient, and you will see the world transformed.

Monday, December 10, 2018

The darkest hour is just before dawn

Morning: Psalm 25; Isaiah 5:8-12, 18-23; I Thessalonians 5:1-11
The Mamas and the Papas song, Dedicated To The One I Love, has a line: “And the darkest hour is just before dawn.” It echoes in my memory. Jesus tells his followers (whom he loves) about the end times and the terrible signs they might see.  But then he says, ‘When you see all these things, keep your chin up; this means your ordeal is nearly over, and soon all will be well for you.’  When things are darkest, know that the light is coming.  Now you don’t tell people you love that the dawn is coming if it’s not.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

When God doesn’t fulfil your expectations … ?

Morning: Psalms 148, 149, 150; Isaiah 5:1-7; 2 Peter 3:11-18

People don’t reject God so much as their own ideas, or what other people have told them, about God.  When people say, “I don’t believe in God,” it may mean simply that what they’ve been told doesn’t work for them.  Fair enough – we may all get God wrong.  Lots of people were surprised when Jesus did unexpected things.  They thought he was a warrior king … he wasn’t.  They thought he shouldn’t associate with marginalized people … he did.  Even John the Baptist misunderstood Jesus.  When God doesn’t fulfil your expectations, maybe your ‘god’ is too small? … think bigger.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Saturday December 8th – seek truth; pursue wisdom; be patient

Morning: Psalms 20, 21:1-7; Isaiah 4:2-6; I Thessalonians 4:13-18
Evening: Psalms 110:1-5, 116, 117; Amos 5:18-27; Luke 21:5-19

In one Beyond the Fringe skit, a group of devotees prepares for the ‘End of the World’.  When it does not arrive at the appointed hour, the leader says, “Not quite the conflagration we were anticipating, was it? … Oh well, same time tomorrow?”  Perhaps as a species we are inclined to dramatic predictions and expectations about dire circumstances (not that there is nothing to worry about!), but Jesus advises: beware of being deceived; tell the truth as you understand it; pursue wisdom; be patient … Pretty good advice for most situations.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Self-righteousness is blind to its own hypocrisy

Morning: Psalms 16, 17; Isaiah 3:8-15; I Thessalonians 4:1-12
Integrity is measured by actions not words.  The religious leaders whom Jesus confronts expend much time and energy giving instruction to people about what they should believe or do.  But their behaviour does not measure up beside that of the poor widow who gives generously of the little she has.  The religious leaders seek their own benefit when they use their legal expertise to trick the vulnerable.  Next to the rich generosity of the poor widow, the religion of the scribes in their long robes is worthless.  Self-righteousness – either religious or secular – is blind to its own hypocrisy.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Keeping an open mind about resurrection

Morning: Psalm 18:1-20; Isaiah 2:12-22; I Thessalonians 3:1-13

Debates about resurrection occurred long before reports that Jesus had risen from the dead.  Some – the Sadducees – refused to believe in resurrection; others – the Pharisees – accepted it.  Jesus seems to have understood resurrection as a way of speaking about the mystery of a reality in which all are ‘alive to God’, even those who have died.  How do you believe in a mystery?  Well, probably because you trust the one who points to the mystery without trying to explain it.  I tend to trust Jesus … so I am keeping an open mind about the mystery of the resurrection.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The beginning is nigh!

Morning: Psalm 119:1-24; Isaiah 2:1-11; I Thessalonians 2:13-20
Evening: Psalms 12, 13, 14; Amos 3:12 – 4:5; Luke 20:19-26

I love cartoons of ragged prophets carrying billboards predicting catastrophe.  This Advent season is characterized by dramatic prophecies of the demise of twisted human systems.  Before something new and redemptive is born, we name the evil that the new beginning confronts.  If we just skip quickly to the celebration of a new birth, we may find that the unacknowledged thing that needed to die comes back to bite us.  In one wonderful cartoon, the prophet carries this billboard, ‘The beginning is nigh!’  To live in hope is to know: we cannot rush that better Day, but it is surely coming.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Your own violence will consume you

Morning: Psalms 5, 6; Isaiah 1:21-31: I Thessalonians 2:1-12

How many politicians or sports teams, following defeat, declare, “We win!”?  In Jesus’s parable of the tenants, the vineyard owner (Jesus’s metaphor for God) is defeated.  In other words … those whom Jesus calls to account will reject and kill him.  Yet Jesus still declares, paradoxically, that his Way will triumph.  His disciples should expect resistance, yet the ‘landlord’ will have the last word.  But what about the violence the landowner uses to punish the tenants?  I understand it to mean: If you treat people violently, your own violence will consume you. It’s another law of nature. 

Monday, December 3, 2018

True authority shows itself in Love

Morning: Psalms 1, 2, 3; Isaiah 1:10-20; I Thessalonians 1:1-10
Evening: Psalms 4, 7; Amos 2:6-16; Luke 20:1-8

Has anyone in authority ever shouted at you? Jesus exercises authority, but not like that. The chief priests ask where his authority comes from?  Instead of arguing with them he asks them whether John’s Baptism was from God?  His question challenges them because they know the people believe John was a prophet.  True authority shows itself quietly, not in noisy rhetoric or domineering behaviour.  Jesus challenges old regimes quietly, even as he hangs on the cross.  In him, the authority of healing and forgiving love asserts itself until everyone acknowledges how powerful Love is.  True authority shows itself in Love.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Be true to yourself and take care of your brother or sister

Morning: Psalm 34; Isaiah 49:1-6; I Corinthians 4:1-16
Today is named for St. Andrew – patron saint of Russia & Ukraine (where he was a missionary), Romania, Barbados and Scotland.  Legend says Andrew died crucified on a saltire (X-shaped) cross.  He was the first of Jesus’s apostles; he brought Peter to Jesus, but his brother received more of history’s attention.  Andrew is a lesser figure, yet how different history would be without him.  His story seems to say: You may be a ‘minor player’, but you never know what you or your loved ones may accomplish, so be true to yourself and take care of your brother or sister.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

No justice, no peace

Morning: Psalms 131, 132, 133; Zechariah 13:1-9; Ephesians 1:15-23
The climax of Jesus’s life will occur in Jerusalem.  There, he will confront the powers of the present age and eclipse them in a radically shocking, unexpected way – by suffering and dying at their hands.  Jesus carries a promise of both justice and mercy.  Today’s parable is stark, even brutal, difficult to unpack, but one thing is certain … there will be a reckoning when the true King comes with his message of grace, and those who oppose his way of mercy and peace will not be comforted.  They too will suffer before goodness can prevail.  No justice, no peace.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The transformative influence of Jesus

Morning: Psalm 119:145-176; Zechariah 12:1-10; Ephesians 1:3-14
Evening: Psalms 128, 129, 130; Obadiah 15-21; Luke 19:1-10

If Jesus came to town, would you go to see him?  I’m sure I would.  Zaccheus, the little tax-collector – one with a reputation for over-charging people on their taxes and keeping the surplus for himself – climbed a tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus.  Jesus invited himself to Zaccheus’s house for a meal.  Zaccheus was so astounded by the way Jesus treated him that he promised to compensate everyone whom he had cheated.  Now, I may not meet Jesus face to face, but he is still a profoundly transformative influence in the world, and in my life.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Comprehending what Jesus is about … or not

Morning: Psalms 121, 122, 123; Zechariah 11:4-17; I Corinthians 3:10-23
Those closest to Jesus don’t see that he is inaugurating a new reality by taking upon himself the dark powers and blindness of the old order, even death itself.  They do not comprehend that Jesus absorbs all the brutal fury of the dark forces.  Jesus proposes no military or political solutions, so is often spiritualized or domesticated by adherents and opponents who don’t understand him.  The blind man understands, though … because he trusts Jesus. The non-religious may be slow to accept Jesus, but often it’s his most fervent followers who are most blind to the radical Love he represents.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Let go and trust a bigger purpose than things

Morning: Psalm 106: 1-18; Zechariah 10:1-12; Galatians 6:1-10
Evening: Psalm 106:19-48; Joel 3:1-2, 9-17; Luke 18:15-30

Stampedes of shoppers storming stores on ‘Black Friday’ … how deeply entrenched possessions have become as illusory guarantors of identity in our culture. What can life be about if not acquiring more stuff?  Yet the rich young ruler is not satisfied with his life. Jesus invites him to give up trusting in possessions, but sadly the young man cannot imagine finding meaning in life apart from his things.  He goes away sad … you get the feeling he goes away empty too.  How long will those Black Friday specials satisfy … even until Boxing Day, do you think?

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The humble will be vindicated

Morning: Psalms 107:33-43, 108; Malachi 3:13-4:6; James 5:13-20
Evening: Psalm 33; Isaiah 65:17-25; Luke 18:9-14

The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector at prayer in the Temple is famous for the Pharisee’s self-righteousness and the tax collector’s humility.  It is another sort of courtroom scene; and like yesterday’s story, it shows that the cosmos leans towards justice.  Justice means the self-righteous are finally humbled and the humble are finally lifted up.  How elated the humble will be, says Jesus, because they will be vindicated … they will be at peace with themselves and with all things.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Justice is written into the fabric of the cosmos

Morning: Psalm 102; Malachi 3:1-12; James 5:7-12
When a judge is found guilty of wrongdoing, you may be shocked at first but you are not completely surprised.  All people are susceptible to human foibles and shortcomings, whatever their position.  You may hope for better, but you should be prepared to be let down.  So if even one of these less than perfect mortals finally succumbs to the perseverance of a widow seeking justice, Jesus says, imagine how true justice will behave.  Since a tendency towards equilibrium is written into the fabric of the cosmos, we can expect real justice in the end.  Until then, we persevere.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Live well now; let death wait

Morning: Psalm 105:1-22; Malachi 2:1-16; James 4:13-5:6
Some Gospel passages are challenging.  This is one, with Jesus responding to people’s worries about the End.  I think explorer David Livingstone gave a good summary of Jesus’s response: “I do not know how the great loving Father will bring out the light at last, but he knows and he will do it.”  Or, don’t worry yourself with things that don’t concern you – like when the end will come, your own or the world’s.  Why? Because that’s like a living death, and there are ‘vultures’ who feed on our preoccupation with death.  Instead, devote your thoughts to living well now.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Humility: forgiveness, faith, & obedience

Morning: Psalms 97, 99, 100; Habakkuk 3:1-18; James 3:1-12
When you are humble, you don’t know it.  The path to humility, Jesus teaches, is through forgiveness, faith and obedience.  When you forgive someone, even many times, they don’t owe you … you are not their master but their servant; even Jesus came offering forgiveness … “not to be served, but to serve.”  And faith acknowledges God’s greatness ... we trust a power beyond our own.  While obedience is being true to your nature … You cannot put God in your debt, saying, “I served others, now I deserve special privilege,” because serving others is the natural thing to do.

Monday, November 19, 2018

What … Change??!!!

Morning: Psalm 89:1-18; Habakkuk 2:1-4, 9-20; James 2:14-26
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus highlights the plight of the poor.  Even so, Jesus tells the Pharisees, corrupt as they are, it’s not too late to change; they can learn from Moses and the prophets.  Most importantly, Jesus predicts his own death and resurrection as fulfilling Moses’ and the prophets’ teachings.  Trouble is, even someone rising from the dead will not convince those who refuse to learn from ancient wisdom.  If Jesus had taught using a joke, it might go like this … ‘How many Pharisees does it take to change a light bulb?  What … Change??!!!’

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Getting clear what really matters

Morning: Psalms 66, 67; Habakkuk 1:1-2:1; Philippians 3:13-4:1
Superstitious and idolatrous practices sometimes grow up in religious communities and they distract people from what’s really important.  I notice some people are nervous about doing the right things at the right time in church … like bowing to the altar or making the sign of the cross.  These are simply spiritual disciplines that some may find helpful … Jesus teaches us not to make arbitrary ‘rules’ that contradict Love or make us so nervous about whether we’re ‘doing it right’ that they make us forget Love altogether.  Love is what matters, above all else.  Love is our guide.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Being faithful – money, wealth, relationships

Morning: Psalms 87, 90; Joel 3:9-17; James 2:1-13

When it comes to money, wealth and relationships, Jesus invites faithfulness. Jesus warns that money, wealth, and possessions can make us unfaithful to our true selves. He warns, also, about unfaithfulness in relationships, being too ready to set them aside.  Faithfulness is our true nature: faithfulness in our use of money; faithfulness to God and not to money; faithfulness to Love; faithfulness to our hearts and not to outward appearances; faithfulness to the dream we have for the world and for our children.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Difficult times call for unconventional solutions

Morning: Psalm 88; Joel 2:28 – 3:8; James 1:16-27

The ‘dishonest manager’ curries favour with his master’s customers by discounting their bills for oil and wheat.  Why? It was common practice to charge interest on credit purchases, but to do it ‘in kind’ – in this case extra oil or wheat – thereby hiding the interest … It was illegal under Jewish law to charge interest.  The manager was probably deducting just the interest – his master could say nothing publicly or else he would be discovered to be charging interest.  Is Jesus encouraging dishonesty in business?  No, but he may be encouraging us to get creative in challenging situations?

Thursday, November 15, 2018

It is our failures that help us show mercy

Morning: Psalms 23, 27; Joel 2:21-27; James 1:1-15

Failures – when we admit them and accept forgiveness – and hardships can both contribute to maturity and wisdom.  We all fail; we all experience troubles. It is hard to understand others when they let us down or when they blame their troubles on us.  You would think that, given our common experience of failure and trouble, we would be ready for anything.  Sadly, failure and struggle wounds some people more deeply than others.  So pray for an understanding heart … Compassion heals the one who receives mercy but also the one who shows mercy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Wednesday November 14th – Radical Love to all who turn and seek help

Morning: Psalm 119:97-120; Joel 2:12-19; Revelation 19:11-21

There was a time when I felt like such a failure and so unworthy of my calling that I did not know where to turn.  I sought help from a former nun, who trained people for spiritual care work in hospitals.  She heard my story, understood that I needed to make a fresh start, and she welcomed me.  I felt that she valued me and rejoiced over me so that I could begin anew.  From her, I felt again the radical Love that Jesus (and therefore God) extends to all who are broken and turn to him for help.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The cost of discipleship

Morning: Psalm 78:1-39; Joel 1:15-2:11; Revelation 19:1-10

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian killed by the Nazis because he actively opposed Hitler.  Bonhoeffer discovered that when Jesus said discipleship might mean letting go of family, possessions, and life itself, he spoke the truth.  The ongoing task of discipleship in our own troubling and rather dark times has not changed.  There are those still hell-bent on building walls and towers and fighting wars … How can disciples of Jesus faithfully call people to be obedient to their true nature – since we are all made for Love - when Love is so costly?  How can they not?

Monday, November 12, 2018

All are invited … who will come to the feast?

Morning: Psalm 80; Joel 1:1-13; Revelation 18:15-24

Jesus often uses parables about feasts, and the Gospels tell stories about Jesus at feasts.  On an everyday moral and practical level, these stories encourage us to make our tables inclusive and not just banquets for a select few … good idea.  On a ‘good news’ level, though, this story holds a vision of what many dream about on a larger scale … a society of fair balance. All are welcome at Jesus’s table.  Some may refuse. While they’re busy with other priorities, though, they may miss something amazing.  But that’s their choice … and ours.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Grace for those whom everyone else ignores

Morning: Psalms 93, 96; I Corinthians 14:1-12

The parable of vineyard workers who all get paid the same whether they work all day or only for an hour is not a comment about social justice or union activity in the workplace.  Rather, it says God’s abundance is for everyone.  Jesus’s followers may feel their faithfulness entitles them to extraordinary rewards.  But Jesus says they deserve no more than everyone else – God’s grace is for all.  In fact, Jesus implies that God is not so much with the faithful religious folk as he is out in the square, welcoming and offering grace to those whom everyone else ignores.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Jostling for position doesn’t work in the end

Morning: Psalms 75, 76; Revelation 18:1-14

Jesus often confronts the human tendency to expect special privileges and advantages because you regard yourself to be more important, more righteous, or more worthy than other people.  Jesus, on the other hand, chooses to spend time with those whom society thinks are unimportant, unrighteous, or unworthy.  Ultimately, if we try to elbow our way to the front of every line, we will be humbled, and the humble will be served before us.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Jesus, the fox and the chickens

Morning: Psalm 69:1-38; Revelation 17:1-18

The Gospel today reminds me of an Aesop fable … Jesus responds to threats from “that fox”, Herod.  The people are ‘chicks’ that the hen protects under her wing.  In farmyard fires, chicks have been found alive under the scorched wing of a dead hen, which died to save them.  Whether Jesus’s powerful, protective metaphor (‘like a hen gathers her brood under her wing’) is about saving people from ‘fox’ or fire, it shows Jesus is ready to give himself to protect the nation, its people and its faith.  He is the peace-envoy, whether or not all accept him.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

One small action … multiplies

Morning: Psalms 70, 71; Revelation 16:12-21
Evening: Psalm 74; Luke 13:18-30

A child is born!  Or, from a tiny mustard seed, a tree!  A little leaven transforms 3 measures of flour … The new reality grows from small beginnings.  Still, Jesus says it’s urgent – like, ‘Don’t miss this open door (however small); don’t miss this moment.’  The metaphor of a closed door is not about some final cosmic outcome.  Jesus’s followers’ present situation is the one that matters most; ours too.  Even our small actions may usher in the very thing that is needed now.  And then come the next small actions … and the next …

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Jesus: Way of liberation

Morning: Psalm 72; Revelation 16:1-11

The bent over woman – probably suffering some kind of mental affliction – is like the nation as a whole; bent out of shape by specious arguments about what is right or wrong.  What Jesus does for the woman (‘untying’ her from her 18 years of bondage) is what he longs to do for the nation –indeed for any nation caught in its own kind of bondage to forces that seem beyond its control. Jesus exposes and opposes the narrow tyranny of fear (emotional, mental, religious, social, political) … Fear keeps people and nations tied in knots when they could be free.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Schools in which to practise a change of heart

Morning: Psalms 61, 62; Revelation 14:14 – 15:8

Have you ever experienced conflict in a faith community?  All human communities experience conflict.  But what then?  On a larger scale, Jews in Pittsburgh and Christians in Egypt were killed last week at worship.  These were instances of religious hatred akin to Pilate’s murder of pilgrims in the Temple in Jesus’ day.  Jesus taught that human conflicts show our need of a change of heart (repentance) – as individuals and as societies. Faith communities are schools in which to practise a change of heart towards one another in small conflicts and so prepare our hearts for the bigger, societal conflicts.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Be clear about how to maintain peace

Morning: Psalms 56, 57, 58; Revelation 14:1-13

Today, in 1605, they discovered Guy Fawkes’ religious conspiracy to torch the Houses of Parliament.  Today, 42 years ago, I left England and came to Canada. Today, 38 years ago, my eldest son was born.  Relationships – political, religious and personal – mark this day for me.  When Jesus says he came to bring fire to the earth, it resonates on all levels.  Jesus calls us to be clear where we stand.  And, since we will not always agree, even with those we hold most dear, we must also be clear about how to make and maintain peace with one another.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Forgiveness is a law of nature, like gravity

Morning: Psalms 24, 29; I Corinthians 12:27 – 13:13
Evening: Psalms 8, 84; Matthew 18:21-35

There is no limit to how often you must forgive someone; whether they say, “Sorry”, or not.  Jesus teaches that when you do not forgive a ‘sister’ or ‘brother’ from the heart, you yourself suffer. When you hang on to anger or judgement towards another person who has wronged you, it will feel like you are being tortured.  The torment another person feels when you refuse to forgive them is a torment you yourself endure, because you will not forgive.  This consequence follows naturally.  Forgiveness is a law of Nature, like gravity ... ignore it at your peril.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Gifts, Expectations, and Blessings

Morning: Psalm 55; Revelation 13:11-18

There is an individualistic theme in modern western culture that undermines community life.  It goes like this … If you’re gifted, lucky you!  That entitles you to privileges and rewards; the more gifted you are, the more comfortably you will live.  Enjoy yourself!  Jesus, on the other hand, points out a different path … Your gifts do not belong to you; they are not for sale, but for service.  The more gifted you are, the more your rewards and blessings need to be found in the satisfaction of service.  If you don’t like this teaching, maybe it’s especially for you!?

Friday, November 2, 2018

Love what Jesus stands for

Morning: Psalms 42, 46; Job 19:21-27a; Romans 8:14-19,31-39

Last week I was wondering what it means to love Jesus, this mysterious, perplexing and enchanting figure from 2,000 years ago?  What makes sense for me, I said, is that to love Jesus means to love what he stands for.  What Jesus stands for invariably gladdens my heart – Love, Justice, Courage, Compassion, Strength, Understanding, the list is long.  So when Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” could it mean that by loving what he stands for, I myself might also become loving, just, courageous, compassionate, strong and understanding?  That is my prayer.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

The Dream: A New Heaven and New Earth

Morning: Psalms 111, 112; Hebrews 11:32 – 12:2

The dream of John of Patmos is like our own dreams … “Every tear wiped away … death, no more … mourning and crying and pain, no more … no temple to make Love known; all will know … the healing of the nations … no evil … any more.”  Something like that may be at the core of what we all want for our children – a reality in which Love rules.  The dream of Love is planted in our hearts, because we are made in the image of Love.  We are made for Love.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

All Hallows’ Eve … a sweet taste of reality

Morning: Psalm 119:49-72; Revelation 12:1-6;

Like many former religious festivals, Hallowe’en is cute and happy.  The echoes of the old festival are there, though.  There are scary moments that reflect a little the timeless struggle with evil in the lives of many good folk.  As with Easter, when our great enemy, death, is put in its place, we need to sweeten some of life’s bitter realities with chocolate (well I do!), without forgetting why we celebrate those of our forebears who have suffered for goodness sake ... Why do we?  Isn’t it to give our children courage for the challenges they will face someday?

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Keep your eyes open to wonder and belief

Morning: Psalm 45; Revelation 11:14-19

Whatever Jesus teaches, someone presses for more evidence to back up his claims.  He invites us to live in obedience to the truth we already know.  It is often like this ... People waste their time searching for some more agreeable truth, while the wisdom they need is right in front of them.  The call to change your whole life is hard ... it may be easier to remain sceptical than to trust.  But, says Jesus, do not close your eyes to wonder and belief; keep your life well lit, and do not ignore the light you already possess.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Jude … how to live well?

Morning: Psalm 66; Isaiah 28:9-16; Ephesians 4:1-16

Today is Saint Simon and Saint Jude’s Day.  Jude wonders how to live well.  Jesus says that loving him will help.  What is it, to love Jesus?  For me, it means loving what Jesus stands for.  In essence, Jesus stands for the renewal and healing of all life.  That will be costly, because some hang onto their own privileges at the expense of others’ lives. Jesus suffered and was killed because he loved his people. I love him for that.  And I pray that Love will ‘make its home’ in me; I will know then how to live.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Reach out and pray for Jewish friends today

Morning: Psalms 63, 98; I Corinthians 10:15-24

Yesterday, a horrific shooting took the lives of 11 people at worship in a Pittsburg synagogue.  This act of hatred moves us to reach out with support and prayer for Jewish friends and neighbours.  Simply to say, “Well, it’s a violent world,” is to surrender to violence. Jesus teaches that when two disciples agree about something, their requests will be fulfilled. We surely agree, don’t we, that this violence must stop? … May we find strength and courage to resist the path of violence on every level, so that the Way of Peace may prevail.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

The Lord’s Prayer … knock persistently

Morning: Psalm 30, 32; Revelation 10:1-11

A disciple asks Jesus to teach them all to pray.  Jesus gives a simple, rich prayer to help them become channels of love.  It is an unusual image for us … God as a sleepy father disturbed by a daughter or son he loves, or even by a stranger, in the middle of the night.  God is not only like a sleepy friend, of course.  But you can knock persistently and boldly anyway … insist on asking for what you need if you are to live well and serve the vision of God’s Kingdom on earth.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Jesus breaks old boundaries and taboos

Morning: Psalm 31; Revelation 9:13-21
Evening: Psalm 35; Ezra 3:1-13; Luke 10:38-42

Mary sits at Jesus’ feet not because she is an adoring admirer. Rather, she listens intently to the teacher because she herself wishes to become a teacher too.  Only a would-be rabbi sits at the rabbi’s feet – Jesus affirms her right to do this, thereby breaking down old boundaries and taboos. Mary steps (scandalously) into a space that is reserved for men, but her action is not like a modern feminist protest.  She is simply listening to the Good News of God’s overflowing love … Jesus never questions that both men and women should share this Good News with others.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

But who is my neighbour?

Morning: Psalm 37:1-18; Revelation 9:1-12
Evening: Psalm 37:19-42; Ezra 1:1-11; Luke 10:25-37

Jesus’ Good Samaritan famously blows wide open what it means to be a neighbour. For Jesus, everyone is our neighbour. The religious people you expect to show neighbourliness instead ignore the plight of a man beaten by robbers.  But a Samaritan foreigner helps him.  Jesus changes forever the meaning of ‘neighbour’.  Likewise, the meaning of the commandment now shifts to become:  ‘Love everyone you meet as yourself.’  What an astoundingly difficult challenge!  Whenever we are able to obey this commandment, even in small ways, human society takes one more step in the direction of wholeness.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Overcoming the power of evil

Morning: Psalm 38; Revelation 8:1-13

Often people trivialize Jesus by representing him as just some kind of self-help guru, who promotes the necessary steps to a better life.  The Gospels tell a different story … there, Jesus’ task it is to break the power of evil, by the mystery of the Cross.  Yet, for disciples of Jesus, the Cross is not the end of it.  God’s purpose, the banishing of evil, continues to work itself out in the lives of Jesus’ disciples, who must themselves confront the power of evil, until the work is done, and victory is won.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The situation is urgent and requires action now

Morning: Psalms 26, 28; Revelation 7:9-17;

When Jesus sends out 70 disciples on a mission, the situation is urgent … Some want full-scale war against Rome, but Jesus seeks ‘children of peace’.  The mission of the 70 has the urgent agenda of turning the people of Israel away from a potentially disastrous, violent conflict.  Our modern-day situation is no less urgent, if for very different reasons.  Disciples of Jesus are sent out now to engage with the world … to humanize our life; to be instruments of love, peace and justice; to resist the degradation and pollution of the earth; to be ‘children of peace.’

Monday, October 22, 2018

Priorities: Heart first; your feet will follow

Morning: Psalm 25; Revelation 7:1-8

Jesus’ invitation to follow him is often heard as a call to self-denial and sacrifice.  But I think it’s more like: Do you really trust me?  One man says, “I will follow you wherever you go.”  We don’t know if he does that after Jesus’ tells him he will need to be ready to rough it.  Two others have more important business right now.  But Jesus says, in effect: Here’s the thing … Let go and let God take care of your many concerns.  Draw strength from me.  A disciple puts heart first; your feet will follow your heart

Friday, October 19, 2018

Pilgrimage & Retreat: Day 11

Morning: Psalms 16, 17; Acts 28:1-6

This morning … the short trip to the airport, and the long journey home.  Here, in Brazilian friends and companions on the human journey, we encountered kindness and generosity.  Just as Jesus was transfigured on the mountain and they saw him for who he was, we ourselves have caught a clearer glimpse of God in this encounter with our companions.  Question for us all:  Have you ever met another person who caused you to marvel at how their eyes sparkle with love, how warm is their welcome to you, how patient their listening ear?  Are you that person for someone?

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Pilgrimage & Retreat: Day 10

Morning: Psalm 103; Ezekiel 47:1-12; Luke 1:1-4

Today is St. Luke’s Day … St. Luke the beloved physician, the healer.  Our time here in Brazil is drawing to a close and today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the parish of St. Luke in Marambaia.  That’s 50 years of faithful healing presence and love in one of the poorest and most troubled parts of the city of Belém – true cause for celebration.  Question:  Are there ways and situations you can identify now where you yourself could bring a healing presence?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Pilgrimage & Retreat: Day 9

Morning: Psalm 119:1-24; Jonah 1:17 – 2:10; Acts 27:9-26
Evening: Psalms 12, 13, 14; Luke 9:1-17

Jesus empowered his disciples to go out and bring healing words and actions to the world around.  That’s what we’re talking about with our Brazilian friends here.  We have a lot in common … Just outside this retreat centre, the Amazon flows by, carrying over 20% of the world’s freshwater.  Back in Owen Sound, Georgian Bay stretches up into Lake Huron and the Great Lakes, which hold more than 20% of the world’s freshwater.  Question:  How might we seek to be empowered to preserve and care for the great treasures of natural beauty and wealth that surround us?

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Pilgrimage & Retreat: Day 8

Morning: Psalms 5, 6; Jonah 1:1-17a; Acts 26:24 – 27:8
Evening: Psalms 10, 11; Luke 8:40-56
There are many around Jesus who long to get close to him – a ruler of the synagogue, a poor woman with a bleeding disorder.  If I myself knew Jesus was in town today, I would be right there, wouldn’t you?  He still holds our imaginations and we perhaps wonder about his power to make things right on the human stage.  Here in Icoaraçi today I am asking myself a question:  What draws me still to Jesus?  What is it about him that can still help our world to find its way back to wholeness?

Monday, October 15, 2018

Pilgrimage & Retreat: Day 7

Morning: Psalms 1, 2, 3; Micah 7:1-7; Acts 26:1-23

This is the first day of our retreat, at Mount Tabor retreat house in Icoaraçi, near Belém.  Marcelo Barros, a liberation theologian well known in Brazil, will lead us.  It is fitting that the Gospel today is about the man possessed by many demons – called “Legion”.  I think he is like the man in Stephen Leacock’s poem “who leapt on his horse and rode madly off in all directions.”  Jesus liberated the man possessed.  Question: Are there competing values and desires that tear you apart?  What would free you?

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Pilgrimage & Retreat: Day 6

Morning: Psalm 146, 147; Micah 6:1-8; I Corinthians 4:9-16

Today is the Círio de Nazaré – a small statue of Mary is carried through the streets, followed by nearly 2 million people!  Some people (mainly Protestant Christians) condemn this procession as a form of idolatry.  I actually believe it is a pure-hearted devotion of people to all that Mary represents – humility and openness to God’s will.  The Pharisees were ready to condemn those who did what they didn’t agree with … Jesus called them ‘blind guides’.  Question:  Are there judgments or prejudices you hold that prevent you from accepting the sincerity of any other human being?

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Pilgrimage & Retreat: Day 5

Morning: Psalms 137, 144; Micah 5:1-14, 10-15; Acts 25:13-27

Today we will be on the River Guamá, one of the tributaries of the mighty Amazon, close here to where it flows into the Atlantic Ocean.  We are to witness a procession of the faithful in boats down the River to the city of Belém.  I am mindful of today’s Gospel story of Jesus in the boat with his frightened disciples.  Question for you today:  What is it that makes you afraid?  Do you think faith could help you find courage?

Friday, October 12, 2018

Pilgrimage & Retreat: Day 4

Morning: Psalms 140, 142; Micah 3:9-4:5; Acts 24:24 – 25:12

I was given an ‘anel de tucum’ a ring made from a large seed-pod of an Amazon tree.  Today, we visit a rainforest museum. The Amazon forest is truly the ‘lungs of the earth’, grown from seeds planted and evolved over millennia.  A forest is a fragile and beautiful thing; it takes a long time to grow – like a human life.  Question, from the Gospel today: What seed, already planted in your heart, wants to germinate and flourish in your life?  What do you need for that seed to grow?

Heaven is harmony not obedience

Morning: Psalm 119:41-64; Isaiah 8:11-20; Romans 10:1-15 Evening: Psalms 23, 27; Matthew 5:17-20 When, at 18, I left England for America...