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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
Evening: Psalms 81, 82; Luke 15:1-10
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.

The cost of discipleship

Morning: Psalm 78:1-39;Joel 1:15-2:11; Revelation 19:1-10
Evening: Psalm 78:40-72; Luke 14:25-35
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?

All are invited … who will come to the feast?

Morning: Psalm 80;Joel 1:1-13; Revelation 18:15-24
Evening: Psalms 77, 79; Luke 14:12-24
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.

Grace for those whom everyone else ignores

Morning: Psalms 93, 96;I Corinthians 14:1-12
Evening: Psalm 34; Ezra 10:1-17; Matthew 20:1-16
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.

Jostling for position doesn’t work in the end

Morning: Psalms 75, 76; Revelation 18:1-14
Evening: Psalms 23, 27;Luke 14:1-11
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.

Jesus, the fox and the chickens

Morning: Psalm 69:1-38;Revelation 17:1-18
Evening: Psalm 73; Luke 13:31-35
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.

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 …

Jesus: Way of liberation

Morning: Psalm 72;Revelation 16:1-11
Evening: Psalm 119:73-96; Luke 13:10-17
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.

Schools in which to practise a change of heart

Morning: Psalms 61, 62; Revelation 14:14 – 15:8
Evening: Psalm 68:1-20;Luke 13:1-9
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.

Be clear about how to maintain peace

Morning: Psalms 56, 57, 58;Revelation 14:1-13
Evening: Psalms 64, 65; Luke 12:49-59
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.

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.

Gifts, Expectations, and Blessings

Morning: Psalm 55; Revelation 13:11-18
Evening: Psalm 138, 139;Luke 12:32-48
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!?

Love what Jesus stands for

Morning: Psalms 42, 46;Job 19:21-27a; Romans 8:14-19,31-39
Evening: Psalms 116, 121; John 14:1-16
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.

The Dream: A New Heaven and New Earth

Morning: Psalms 111, 112; Hebrews 11:32 – 12:2
Evening: Psalms 148, 150;Wisdom 5:1-5, 14-16; Revelation 21:1-4, 22 – 22:5
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.

All Hallows’ Eve … a sweet taste of reality

Morning: Psalm 119:49-72;Revelation 12:1-6;
Eve of All Saints:Psalm 134; Wisdom 3:1-9; Revelation 19:1, 4-10
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?

Keep your eyes open to wonder and belief

Morning: Psalm 45;Revelation 11:14-19
Evening: Psalms 47, 48; Luke 11:27-36
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.

Jude … how to live well?

Morning: Psalm 66;Isaiah 28:9-16; Ephesians 4:1-16
Evening: Psalms 116, 117; John 14:15-31
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.

Reach out and pray for Jewish friends today

Morning: Psalms 63, 98;I Corinthians 10:15-24
Evening: Psalm 103; Haggai 1:1-2:9; Matthew 18:15-20
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.

The Lord’s Prayer … knock persistently

Morning: Psalm 30, 32; Revelation 10:1-11
Evening: Psalm 42, 43;Ezra 4:7, 11-24; Luke 11:1-13
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.

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.

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.

Overcoming the power of evil

Morning: Psalm 38;Revelation 8:1-13
Evening: Psalm 119:25-48; Luke 10:17-24
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.

The situation is urgent and requires action now

Morning: Psalms 26, 28; Revelation 7:9-17;
Evening: Psalms 36, 39;Luke 10:1-16
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.’

Priorities: Heart first; your feet will follow

Morning: Psalm 25;Revelation 7:1-8
Evening: Psalms 9, 15; Luke 9:51-62
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

Pilgrimage & Retreat: Day 11

Morning: Psalms 16, 17;Acts 28:1-6
Evening: Psalm 22; Luke 9:28-36
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?

Pilgrimage & Retreat: Day 10

Morning: Psalm 103; Ezekiel 47:1-12; Luke 1:1-4
Evening: Psalms 67, 96;Isaiah 52:7-10; Acts 1:1-8
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?

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?

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?

Pilgrimage & Retreat: Day 7

Morning: Psalms 1, 2, 3;Micah 7:1-7; Acts 26:1-23
Evening: Psalms 4, 7; Luke 8:26-39
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?

Pilgrimage & Retreat: Day 6

Morning: Psalm 146, 147;Micah 6:1-8; I Corinthians 4:9-16
Evening: Psalm 111, 112, 113; Matthew 15:21-28
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?

Pilgrimage & Retreat: Day 5

Morning: Psalms 137, 144; Micah 5:1-14, 10-15; Acts 25:13-27
Evening: Psalm 104;Luke 8:16-25
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?

Pilgrimage & Retreat: Day 4

Morning: Psalms 140, 142;Micah 3:9-4:5; Acts 24:24 – 25:12
Evening: Psalms 141, 143:1-11; Luke 8:1-15
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?

Pilgrimage & Retreat: Day 3

Morning: Psalms 131, 132, 133;Micah 3:1-8; Acts 24:1-23
Evening: Psalms 134, 135; Luke 7:36-50
Today we will visit the Basilica de Nazaré in Belém.  Nazareth in Bethlehem!  Here there are elements of the Christian story everywhere you turn.  It was Christians that brought slaves from Africa to this land of Brazil, it was Christians who dispossessed the indigenous peoples, here as in Canada.  There is much for Christians to repent of, and much to be forgiven. Today’s question (from the Gospel story of the woman who anoints Jesus’ feet might be – for all of us):  For what do I need to seek forgiveness?

Pilgrimage & Retreat: Day 2

Morning: Psalm 119:145-176; Micah 2:1-13; Acts 23:23-35
Evening: Psalm 128, 129, 130; Luke 7:18-35
Today we will arrive in Belém (which is Portuguese for Bethlehem).  Bethlehem, in symbolic terms, is the place of expectancy, of new beginnings.  Interesting that in today’s Gospel John sends a question to Jesus: “Are you the one who is coming or should we expect another?”
A question for today: What do you expect from God, if anything?

Pilgrimage & Retreat: Day 1

Morning: Psalms 121, 122, 123; Micah 1:1-9; Acts 23:12-24
Evening: Psalms 124, 125, 126, 127; Luke 7:1-17
Tonight, I and 8 others from across the Anglican Diocese of Huron will embark on a Pilgrimage to Belém, Amazonia, Brazil to witness a major religious festival – the Círio de Nazaré – in which over 2 million people process through the streets of Belém.  Afterwards, we will participate in a 3-day retreat led by liberation theologian, Marcelo Barros. I invite you to join this spiritual pilgrimage with us, through questions we might explore together based on our daily readings … Questions for today: Jesus had spiritual authority:  Who has spiritual authority in my life? What does that mean for me?

Jesus and his words … a rock to build on

Morning: Psalm 106:1-18;Hosea 14:1-9; Acts 22:30-23:11
Evening: Psalm 106:19-48; Luke 6:39-49
Jesus says that acting on his words gives life a strong foundation, and that some disciples are hypocrites who call Jesus ‘Lord’ but do not obey his teaching … However, a disciple cannot know better than his teacher; if he thinks he does, he leads others into trouble. Good actions cannot come from a divided heart, because a divided heart is not able to distinguish good from evil.  The Way of Jesus is like a rock on which you can build a life; life’s other important decisions become clearer to you when you decide to build on that rock.

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Morning: Psalm 118; Hosea 13:4-14; I Corinthians 2:6-16Evening: Psalm 145; Matthew 14:1-12
We pray to God that this Thanksgiving, we not just give thanks, but that we choose thanks … In God’s sacred generosity, we see that we live in an infinite circle of gratitude. We all are guests at a hospitable table around which gifts are passed and received. We will strive not to let anything opposed to love take over this table … we will pass gratitude on to the world … With all those gathered here, we pledge to make thanks … around this table, around the table of our nation, around the table of the earth. Amen. (This is an adaptation of a prayer by Diana Butler Bass, in her book: Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks)

The Way to real life … Love your enemies

Morning: Psalms 107:33-43, 108; Hosea 11:1-9; Acts 22:17-29
Evening: Psalm 33;Luke 6:27-38
Everything Jesus stands for runs counter to the usual norms by which human beings govern their lives.  Those norms include … hatred for enemies, revenge on abusers, and judgement of those who offend you.  But Jesus overturns this whole tit-for-tat system of human vengeance … Instead, love your enemies; do unto others as you would have them do to you; forgive.  Does this sound unreal or unrealistic?  Consider this … that what is most unreal and unrealistic is to perpetuate the cycle of human violence. Instead, love those who treat you badly.  Break the cycle.  Overcome hatred with Love.

What people call ‘the real world’ isn’t … yet

Morning: Psalm 102;Hosea 10:1-15; Acts 21:37-22:16
Evening: Psalm 107:1-32; Luke 6:12-26
Jesus’ goal is a better and brighter Day for the earth and its creatures. In that new reality, things are turned on their heads because our present reality is actually un-real.  In Jesus’ new reality, all is as it should be.  The poor, the hungry, those who weep and those whom the world hates - because of Jesus – are Blessed.  In Jesus’ new reality, the rich, the over-full, those who are laughing now, and those of whom all speak well will weep, because everything that is untrue to the true nature of things will in time be swept away.

Sometimes the law is … well, misunderstood

Morning: Psalm 105:1-22;Hosea 5:8-6:6; Acts 21:27-36
Evening: Psalm 105:23-45; Luke 6:1-11
It’s fitting that on St. Francis’ Day, in the Gospel, Jesus is challenging legalists about their misunderstanding of law: law supports people in doing good, rather than condemning them.  Francis deliberately turned things on their head too.  Faithful to Jesus, his Master, Francis prayed … “make me a channel of Peace; where there is hatred, let me sow Love; where there is injury, Pardon; where there is doubt, Faith; where there is sadness, Joy … O Master, Grant that I may not seek so much to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand.”  Amen to that.

Jesus calls those who need him … everyone!

Morning: Psalm 101, 109:1-30; Hosea 4:11-19; Acts 21:15-26
Evening: Psalm 119:121-144; Luke 5:27-39
Jesus invites to follow him only people who really need what he has to offer.  As only the sick need a physician, so only those whose relationships with one another and with God are broken need the healing that Jesus brings. He doesn’t call righteous people, but sinners.  A strong theme in the Bible is that “none are righteous … for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  By implication, that means Jesus calls everyone, because we all fall short of and betray our true selves; we all need the healing grace that Jesus brings.

Physical, spiritual, social … one interconnected whole

Morning: Psalms 97, 99; Hosea 4:1-10; Acts 21:1-14
Evening: Psalm 94; Luke 5:12-26
When Jesus healed people, he sometimes said their sin were forgiven.  Forgiveness is the healing of relationships. When Jesus heals people, they are usually restored to community – because sickness is very isolating.  Healing also restores people’s relationships with others and with God.  The distinctions between Body, Mind and Spirit are convenient ways of speaking, but they are misleading – all aspects of our humanity are part of one whole.  When one part is broken, the whole is compromised.  When one part is made whole, the rest benefits.  We are discovering the Creation is like that too … one interconnected whole.

Fair trade … I help you; you help me

Morning: Psalm 89:1-18;Hosea 2:14-23; Acts 20:17-38
Evening: Psalm 89:19-52; Luke 5:1-11
When Jesus gives unsolicited advice to a group of seasoned Galilee fishermen, they probably think, “Who does this carpenter think he is!?” or worse.  Simon is more polite in the story … “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.”  Then they catch a couple of boatloads of fish.  The message? … Jesus can help us with our everyday work, and when that’s done, he may say, “Come with me. Don’t be afraid. I have something you can help me with now … people.”  Fair trade.

A new Way of life … like finding treasure!

Morning: Psalms 66, 67;Hosea 2:2-14; James 3:1-13
Evening: Psalms 19, 46; Matthew 13:44-52
You’re going along in life … then something unexpected happens that changes everything – a person, a new calling, a sense of purpose – and your life is transformed.  Has this ever happened to you?  If so, you understand Jesus’s parables of the treasure and the pearl … how Jesus invites you to discover, in him, a new and rich Way of life.  He calls it “the kingdom of heaven”.  It’s actually a plan for the renewal of all things by the power of Love.  Once you realize its infinite value, you want it, for yourself, yes, but also for the world.

We don’t know much … but we know Love

Morning: Psalms 8, 148;Job 38:1-7; Hebrews 1:1-14
Evening: Psalms 34, 150; Daniel 12:1-3; Mark 13:21-27
One beautiful dark evening, I heard a child who was fishing with her father ask him, “What are stars?”  He answered, “Planets.”  I wanted to object, “Stars are suns.”  Sometimes adults tell children that stars are dead loved ones.  Why answer children’s questions, when we don’t know the answers, with fabrications?  Why not just say, “I don’t know all that happens when we die,” because that’s the truth?  So tell the truth.  Do not fear mystery.  And don’t make things up … perhaps just say you believe the universe was made by Love for Love?

Friday September 28th – Good News is hard to contain

Morning: Psalm 88;Esther 8:1-8, 15-17; Acts 19:21-41
Evening: Psalm 91, 92; Luke 4:31-37
Have you ever tried to dam a stream?  Holding back news is like trying to plug a leaking dam.  There is historical certainty that Jesus healed, quite dramatically, many who were afflicted with mental and spiritual anguish.  Jesus treated such afflictions directly and with authority.  He declared that real power belongs to God, who is greater than all earthly authorities.  News of his healings spread rapidly. Of course, Jesus soon became a target. Those earthly authorities feared people’s allegiance to him.  By this time, though, it was too late … the dam had broken … the news was out!

Make the whole world great!

Morning: Psalms 116, 117;Esther 7:1-10; Acts 19:11-20
Evening: Psalms 85, 86; Luke 4:14-30
In Jesus’s hometown synagogue, they want him to speak in nationalistic terms.  They expect a leader who will help them to re-establish their nation.  But Jesus preaches from Isaiah, who seeks mercy and healing for all nations, not just their own.  Jesus taught, ‘Make the whole world great!’  This was too broad and inclusive for his compatriots, so they ran him out of town.  Nationalism is abroad again in the world. But Jesus’s message still stands in opposition to it … the world needs collaboration and cooperation among nations now more than ever.

Rely on a wisdom greater than your own

Morning: Psalm 119:97-120;Esther 6:1-14; Acts 19:1-10
Evening: Psalms 81, 82; Luke 4:1-13
The story of Jesus’s temptation in the wilderness shows his true humanity and ours.  The ‘devil’ in the story is the inner voice of Jesus’s own experience tempting him to take short-cuts to power.  It’s the voice that, in every human life, tempts you to sell yourself short, to betray your true self.  If you’re human, you know this voice.  Jesus does not argue with this voice; he rebukes it.  He uses the wisdom of scripture to stay him true to himself.  Jesus’s experience demonstrates how important it is for you to rely on a wisdom greater than your own.

Bringing out the best in us

Morning: Psalm 78:1-39;Esther 5:1-14; Acts 18:12-28
Evening: Psalm 78:40-72; Luke 3:15-22
People often jump to conclusions about what the Bible means, based on their assumptions rather than on the story.  John describes Jesus as like one who threshes wheat, keeping the grain and burning the chaff.  Some think the grain is good people and the chaff is bad people.  But that creates a false dichotomy. It misunderstands the metaphor and makes for Bad News … Rather, regard each person as one stalk of wheat with both grain and chaff.  Jesus brings out the best in us.  The worst in us, he sets aside and destroys.  That is Good News.

Just “Sorry!” is not enough for forgiveness

Morning: Psalm 80;Esther 4:4-17; Acts 18:1-11
Evening: Psalm 77; Luke 3:1-14
John the Baptist proclaimed “repentance” for forgiveness and healing of broken relationships.  Repentance is a 180-degree about-face; not just a change of mind or heart, but a reversal of actions to correct previous mistaken actions – those who have enjoyed 2 coats should now give one to someone who has none; those who have enjoyed plenty of food should start to share it; tax collectors should stop extorting money.  “Sorry” is not enough.  A change of mind and heart must lead to a change of behaviour … then and only then is it possible to actually benefit from forgiveness.

Give, Pray, Fast … naturally!

Morning: Psalms 93, 96;Esther 3:1-4:3; James 1:19-27
Evening: Psalm 34; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
Jesus invites a fully human Way of Life. He assumes Life includes Giving, Praying and Fasting.  These are not moral obligations, but normal human actions, like breathing or sleeping.  So Jesus does not order us to Give, Pray or Fast but he does teach us how … not giving way to hypocrisy, ego or pride.  So Give naturally and gratefully, from the abundant gifts you have received. Pray naturally, seeking guidance and strength for living. Fast in the natural attitude of moderation you bring to everything.  Give, Pray, Fast … What else would you do!? How is the charm.

God does not judge us; truth does

Morning: Psalms 75, 76; Esther 2:5-8, 15-23; Acts 17:16-34Evening: Psalms 23, 27; John 12:44-50
Many think God is watching (or Jesus) … but not lovingly.  It’s like God is the cosmic supervisor, judging when we do wrong.  This is a curse, Bad News, because we’re always messing up, right? Quite frankly, to imagine that God judges as we do is pure projection from our own human behaviour!  We judge a lot.  But Jesus has Good News: “I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world … The word that I have spoken will serve as judge.”

Matthew: hearing & sharing Good News

Morning: Psalm 119:41-64; Isaiah 8:11-20; Romans 10:1-15
Evening: Psalms 19, 112; Job 28:12-28; Matthew 13:44-52
Today is St. Matthew’s Day.  Matthew’s parables – the treasure, the pearl, and the net – make it clear: Jesus wants Good News shared.  When you have something of great value, you can hoard it or share it.  Sharing is Matthew’s calling; he ‘casts the net’ widely … sharing Good News with all.  You may or may not respond.  If someone tells you where to find treasure, you probably go look there. If you don’t listen, the treasure remains unknown, undiscovered.  You can’t share what you don’t know … so listen and grow rich in understanding, but don’t keep it to yourself!

In the light, you can see where you’re going

Morning: Psalms 70, 71; Job 28:1-28; Acts 16:25-40
Evening: Psalm 74; John 12:27-36a
Realizing he must die, Jesus is troubled.  He wonders: should he avoid death.  Instead he prays for God’s reputation to get a boost. God responds noisily, in a rare voice like thunder, saying, “I’ve already done that and I will keep at it.”  In other words, evil is being overcome.  Eventually, as Jesus is “lifted up” (on the Cross) he will draw people to him …  Walk in the light of this promise as children of light.  It’s easier to walk in the light than in the dark.  You can see where you’re going.

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?