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Showing posts from January, 2018

Living in Jesus’ Way

Morning: Psalm 72;Genesis 22:1-18; Hebrews 11:23-31Evening: Psalm 119:73-96; John 6:52-59
Today’s Gospel reading has more about Jesus himself being “real food” … those who “eat (his) flesh and drink (his) blood” will live well.  Of course, this is not about cannibalism, but about fully taking on board, in our very being, who Jesus is and what he represents. Everyone who does so, he says, will enjoy a transformed life.  Jesus is probably the greatest transformative figure in human history.  It’s not such a long stretch to suggest that if we live in his Way – more than that, if his Way lives in us – our lives will be rich beyond measure.

What God is like matters to me

Morning: Psalms 61, 62;Genesis 21:1-21; Hebrews 11:13-22Evening: Psalm 68; John 6:41-51
The Gospel story - Jesus dying in opposition to unjust power - invites me to believe that there is a God who is compassionate, alongside us in our struggles to build a world of justice and peace.  This is bread for me;  it satisfies my hunger ... this wild and wonderful thought that we are not alone, and that we are called to make sure no one else is alone either.  Compassion is not a bad guide for a life.  I’ll go with it, as best I can.

Bread of Life

Morning: Psalms 56, 57, 58; Genesis 19:1-29; Hebrews 11:1-12Evening: Psalms 64, 65; John 6:27-40
Do you know what it’s like to be with someone, or a group of people – maybe for a meal, maybe simply being together – and just their company, their presence, feeds your soul?  You savour the moments with them; you feel yourself being nourished and relaxing the way you do when you come home at the end of a stressful day?  Jesus called himself the Bread of Life, who satisfies your deep hunger and thirst, who fills you the way not even the Blue Plate Special can.  He wants us to be ‘bread’ like this for one another.

The Quiet Revolution

Morning: Psalms 24, 29;Genesis 18:16-33; Galatians 5:13-25Evening: Psalms 8, 84; Mark 8:22-30
Jesus heals a blind man - outside of town. He doesn’t want the healing to be known.  Later, walking north from Galilee to Caesarea Philippi (about 35 miles), Jesus asks his disciples if they know who he is.  Peter says, “The Anointed,” which means, the One they are waiting for to come and deliver them.  But Jesus says, “Tell no-one.”  Already, they can see that things will not go the way they imagine.  This Messiah offers a transformation of the heart, not a political coup.  Changed hearts are like a blind man seeing!  Lasting change comes from within.

The joys in my life … like winter!

Morning: Psalm 55; Genesis 18:1-16; Hebrews 10:26-39Evening: Psalms 138, 139; John 6:16-27
Where’s the joy in life?  I love it when Lake Huron freezes over because I get to walk on water!  Just after Jesus ‘feeds the 5000’, here’s another miracle – he walks on water.  Jesus says, though, that I only care about miracles when they provide something tangible, like bread.  Instead, Jesus invites me to look for intangible soul-food that is truly life-giving.  Wanting miracles keeps me searching for ‘magic bullet solutions’ to my problems … so I become unprepared for the effort that my challenges demand of me, and I’m unsurprised by the joys that life already offers.  Like winter!

The generosity miracle that satisfies your own soul

Morning: Psalms 40, 54; Genesis 17:15-27; Hebrews 10:11-25
Evening: Psalm 51; John 6:1-15
Someone has suggested that, when Jesus fed the 5000, the miracle was that a young boy’s generosity inspired a tsunami of generosity.  Others shared their food too, so all were fed.  We need not insist on some greater miracle.  Can you imagine a greater miracle than the 1% who ‘own’ 82% of the world’s wealth, or the 42 individuals who hold more wealth than the world’s poorest 50% … sharing it!?  In response to a miracle like that, we would just marvel and give thanks.  Giving generously out of your abundance helps others, but it also satisfies your own soul.

Not the right person for the job … are you sure?

Morning: Psalm 19;Isaiah 45:18-25; Philippians 3:4b-11
Evening: Psalm 119:89-112; Acts 9:1-22

How do you know who’s the right person for the job?  St. Paul’s Damascus Road ‘interview with Jesus’ was like recruiting a dictator to lead a human rights campaign … or a Tar Sands executive to fight climate change!  Interviewers look for prior success in the skills they’re recruiting for.  Paul had successfully persecuted Christians, but he became as passionate promoting the Way of Jesus as he had been persecuting it.  You may think someone’s not cut out for a task; you may think you’re not.  But expect transformation – in yourself and others.  Miracles do happen!  The ‘blind’ see!

You do not have to be good to be loved

Morning: Psalm 119:49-72;Genesis 16:1-14; Hebrews 9:15-28Evening: Psalm 9; John 5:19-29
Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese poem begins, “You do not have to be good.”  She urges us not to moralize, with ourselves or others. You don’t gain fullness of life by good behaviour, but by being open to Love.  So … you do not have to be good … to be loved.  When Love moves in us, life flourishes in us too; we do good things.  And real love (which gives birth to the Cosmos) is free.  When evil finds a way in us, our lives shrink and we ourselves judge them incomplete and small.  Goodness springs from Love, not Law.

Healthy communities, healthy people

Morning: Psalm 45;Genesis 15:1-11, 17-21; Hebrews 9:1-14
Evening: Psalms 47, 48; John 5:1-18
Astonishingly, in 38 years no one helped the lame man into the Siloam pool at the right time for him to be healed. Then, when Jesus healed him on the Sabbath, they berated Jesus for doing it on the wrong day!  Oh, how we humans get our priorities mixed up!  The lame man’s most serious ailment is belonging to a sick community.  Many health problems arise because of unhealthy communities. And Jesus healings often include restoring people to community.  Jesus’ priority is the ‘Kingdom of God’, which is not some ethereal future reality, but real and healthy community, right here.

Signs and wonders won’t help you believe

Morning: Psalms 41, 52; Genesis 14:1-24; Hebrews 8:1-13Evening: Psalm 44; John 4:43-54
Is there a power in the universe greater than human power?  The people want Jesus to prove he has such power.  He resists: “Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”  Even natural wonders - the beauty of nature, the Love in your own heart, the immensity of the universe … they cannot say what created them. There are a million wonders that are beyond our understanding. Faith does not try to prove them; if it could, it would cease being faith … Faith is content to trust that an unprovable mystery lies at the heart of Creation.

When we listen, the deaf hear and the mute speak

Morning: Psalms 63, 98;Genesis 13:2-18; Galatians 2:1-10Evening: Psalm 103; Mark 7:31-37
One notable quality of Jesus is his listening to people. Tomorrow, some of us will gather for supper and to learn about listening. Jesus heals a deaf mute, and the Gospel says: “He makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”  Think about that this way perhaps … When we really listen to people, we may hear what they are saying for the first time … the deaf hear.  And for them, when we listen well, their muteness may be healed so that they find their voice … the mute speak.

Jesus: unlike anyone else … You could follow him

Morning: Psalms 30, 32; Genesis 12:9-13:1; Hebrews 7:18-28Evening: Psalms 42, 43;John 4:27-42
Do you know the experience of something slowing dawning on you?  You keep getting little indications of it, and it gets stronger and stronger until … you just know it.  Like the realization that the person you don’t like is actually more like you than you were willing to admit!  All through the Gospel stories there is an unfolding realization, too … that Jesus is actually unlike anyone you’ve ever met or heard of before.  He has “food to eat that you do not know about” and his wisdom is extraordinary.  You could follow him.

A Universal Longing … for Truth

Morning: Psalm 31;Genesis 11:27-12:8; Hebrews 7:1-17Evening: Psalm 35; John 4:16-26
When Jesus speaks to the woman at the well, he is responding to a universal longing in human beings, a thirst that needs to be quenched.  She talks to him about her ancestors’ religious traditions, about where people practice their religion.  Jesus is less concerned with her religion than with her finding spiritual authenticity and truth.  She admits she expects the Messiah will explain everything.  Jesus says: “I am he.”  The Messiah does not promote religion but authenticity of spirit … truth.  Isn’t authentic living the thing we long for really, the thirst we want to satisfy?

You can’t argue when you’re praying for one another

Morning: Psalms 66, 67; Ezekiel 3:4-11; Acts 10:34-44Evening: Psalm 118; Ezekiel 34:11-16; John 21:15-22
Today begins the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  But the sad divisions among Christians make it hard for them to be agents of peace in a broken world. Christians, like the rest of humanity, are prone to inconsistency and failure. Peter denies Jesus 3 times when his life is at risk.  Later, Jesus asks him 3 times, “Do you love me?” and Peter is reconciled to his Master. Christians will find peace, too, when their conversation turns to Love instead of doctrine.  You can’t argue when you’re praying for one another, because prayer is about Love

The story may confound me, yet I will follow

Morning: Psalm 38; Genesis 9:18-29; Hebrews 6:1-12Evening: Psalm 119:25-48; John 3:22-36
I remember seeing a painting of John the Baptist, standing like a signpost, pointing beyond himself, as if to say, “Look to Jesus, not me.”  John believes the Spirit is at work in Jesus, who is the Way to Life.  So it’s hard to hear in the same Gospel passage that God is angry when I stray from the truth. I need mercy when I mess up, not wrath; I’m usually angry enough at myself!  Yet I will still follow the signpost and look to Jesus, even if his story sometimes confounds me.
Tuesday Jan 16th – Come to the light … see and be seen Morning: Psalms 26, 28; Genesis 9:1-17; Hebrews 5:7-14 Evening: Psalms 36, 39; John 3:16-21
“Come into the light,” we say, either when we can’t see someone or when we want them to see something.  Sometimes, perhaps for shame or fear, we don’t want to be seen.  Yet, when we feel good about ourselves, we are not to be afraid to step into the light.  I learned that when Jesus talked about “fishing for people” he meant bringing them out of the depths of darkness and into the light.  When you step into light, you can see and be seen.  Similarly, when you let go of shame and fear, you see life with greater clarity.

Born of the Spirit … a new way of seeing

Morning: Psalm 25;Genesis 8:6-22; Hebrews 4:14 – 5:6Evening: Psalms 9, 15; John 2:23-3:15
In some religious circles, being “born again” is a yardstick for measuring people’s eternal fate; you’re ‘in’, or you’re ‘out’.  Jesus would cringe at such misunderstanding.  He invites, instead, spiritual re-birth, by which you see that Love is for everyone (you “see the Kingdom”).  Concern about your own eternal future blinds you to the inclusive and loving purpose of creation.  Paradoxically, if you’re preoccupied with whether you are ‘born again’, you’re probably not!  What Jesus calls being born “from above” helps you see beyond your own life to what poet Mary Oliver calls, “your place in the family of things”.

Graham

Good News … you can live well, in a balanced life

Sunday Jan 14th – Good News … you can live well, in a balanced life Morning: Psalms 148, 149, 150; Genesis 7:1-10, 17-23; Ephesians 4:1-16 Evening: Psalm 114, 115; Mark 3:7-19
Early in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus calls disciples: “Come … fish for people”. Later he appoints ‘apostles’, who are sent to share the ‘Good News’ with others.  ‘Fishing for people’ is troublesome taken literally, but obviously it’s a metaphor.  I think it’s about people being captivated by the hope and promise of fullness of life. Then what exactly is the Good News?  It’s the invitation to turn and receive healing and forgiveness of all that separates us from the ground of our being, all that keeps us from being whole.  It’s about discovering how to live well, in a balanced life.

Temples: places of prayer (buildings, bodies, world)

Morning: Psalms 20, 21; Genesis 6:9-22; Hebrews 4:1-13
Evening: Psalms 110, 116, 117;John 2:13-22
Jesus clears the temple because the house of prayer has become a marketplace.  He guards that sacred place.  Sacred buildings are under assault in our culture, too; even church people say, “We don’t need church buildings.”  Yet, we ourselves build bigger and bigger houses to live in!  It’s vital to set apart special places for prayer (in our climate, buildings) … Buildings dedicated to prayer develop sacred energy.  They help us remember that both the world and our bodies are sacred.  True prayer is mostly listening; both the world and our bodies desperately need quiet places set aside for this.

Seeking moral equilibrium, in ourselves and in society

Morning: Psalm 16, 17;Genesis 6:1-8; Hebrews 3:12-19Evening: Psalm 22; John 2:1-12
Early in the Bible, the story of Noah tells how we humans can make such messes of things, especially together.  Reinhold Niebuhr’s famous book, Moral Man and Immoral Society, suggests that individuals are moral while communities tend not to be.  In the Noah story in Genesis, human society is good for nothing – it will be destroyed – but Noah is a good man and he will be saved. All of us are Noah, sometimes. Our challenge is to live well ourselves while seeking justice and mercy in society too.  Many Bible stories are written in pursuit of this balance.

Earth and heaven meet in human life

Morning: Psalm 18:1-20; Genesis 4:17-26; Hebrews 3:1-11
Evening: Psalm 18:21-50;John 1:43-51
In 1998, Swissair flight 111 crashed off Nova Scotia.  The Peggy’s Cove multi-faith memorial says, of those who died: “They have been joined to the sea and the sky.”  The phrase reaches for a mysterious truth, perhaps that somehow, in human life, and death, earth and heaven meet.  Jesus says, “you will see greater things … angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” Nathanael recognized Jesus’ human and divine qualities.  At first, he honestly expressed his doubt, but then called Jesus ‘Son of God’.  Mystery so often speaks the truth about what we know, but do not understand.
Wednesday Jan 10th – the One who helps us hit the mark Morning: Psalm 119:1-24; Genesis 4:1-16; Hebrews 2:11-18 Evening: Psalms 12, 13, 14; John 1:29-42
All is not right with the world. We humans ‘miss the mark’ – this is the meaning of ‘sin’ ... the experience described by Dante, of feeling ‘lost, as in a dark wood’. Most spiritual paths seek to help us find our way again.  They invite us into awareness of mistaken expectations in both our personal and public lives, and the unwise choices we make.  John sees Jesus and says he is the One who helps us, both personally and in communities, to get back on track, to improve our aim and to ‘hit the mark’.

Point to one who is greater than yourself

Morning: Psalms 5, 6;Genesis 3:1-24; Hebrews 2:1-10Evening: Psalms 10, 11; John 1:19-28
It’s pretty counter-cultural in these days of self-promotion to point beyond yourself to someone greater.  In fact, it would be seen in some quarters as a bad career move, where the whole idea is to be seen as the greatest.  All that goes to say that the spiritual life cannot be a ‘career’ but only a calling.  And the calling of the spiritual life is always to point beyond yourself to one who is greater.  John did it, even though they were looking for him to be ‘The One’.  He just said, “I am not the One”, and stepped aside.

The Creator pitched a tent among us

Morning: Psalms 1, 2, 3;Genesis 2:4-9; Hebrews 1:1-14Evening: Psalms 4, 7; John 1:1-18
Truly unique to Christianity is its conviction that the Creator is present on earth in the human form of Jesus. John’s Gospel says: “The Logos took flesh and pitched a tent among us.”  ‘The Logos’ is the Creative Word of God, who says, “let there be light,” and light appears …  John says that this source of light is among us!  If we expect to meet him, we probably will – not in crystal palaces, but beside us.  Not everyone believes this, but some say they have met him … in one another.  Imagine!

Baptism … coming to grips with your ego

Morning: Psalms 146, 147; Genesis 1:1 – 2:3; Ephesians 1:3-14Evening: Psalms 11, 112, 113; John 1:29-34
Water is sacred for many cultures.  So - no surprise - in the Hebrew Bible, the creative Spirit moves over dark, deep waters.  Soon, light emerges. Two weeks after celebrating Jesus’ birth, Christians recall the same Spirit moving in the waters of his baptism. Baptism is spiritual transformation, ‘dying to self’ so that ego no longer crowds out our true nature and purpose, which is to bring Light to dark places.  Yesterday, the U.S. President defended his ‘genius’; you cannot bring Light to the world without coming to grips with your ego.  Jesus’ baptism and ours are about just that.

Do you realize who Jesus is?

Morning: Psalms 46, 97;Isaiah 49:1–7; Revelation 21:22–27Evening: Psalms 96, 100; Matthew 12:14–21
Epiphany means “Aha! Now I see!”  The Pharisees, not realizing who Jesus is, want to kill this ‘imposter’.  Others, not yet realizing his true purpose, but calling themselves his friends, insist on promoting him loudly or proudly.  They also do away with Jesus, inadvertently destroying what he stands for. Matthew, though, quoting Isaiah, portrays Jesus as a servant: “He will not wrangle or cry aloud,nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.” [He is humble.] “He will not break a bruised reedor quench a smouldering wick.” [He is gentle and compassionate.]  Do you realize who Jesus is?

What does it mean to be raised from the dead?

Morning: Psalm 2, 110; Jonah 2:2-9; John 11:17-27Evening: Psalms 29, 98; Isaiah 66:18–23; Romans 15:7–13
Yesterday was the funeral of a friend. Couldn’t Jesus have resurrected her, like Lazarus?  Yet, in Lazarus, Jesus invites a different understanding of resurrection. Lazarus will still die, like us, but he is called to embrace life again right here, as are we.  Resurrection is when life defeats the power of death here and now.This power of death shows itself in injustice, environmental disasters, mindless rules, distorted religion, gender violence, nuclear arms, judgemental behaviour … these suck the life out of life.  But we are called to put down these deadly powers, and embrace Life again, while we live.

When you miss the point, it’s like you’re blind

Morning: Psalms 85, 87;Joshua 3:14 – 4:7; Ephesians 5:1–20Evening: Psalm 89:1-29; John 9:1–12, 35–38
Some people waste time debating whether Jesus actually heals the man born blind; which proves the point of the story.  The story is about spiritual blindness. The disciples think sin caused the man to be blind, but Jesus says he is who he is so that truth can shine in him.  When Jesus heals him, the Pharisees won’t believe he has ever been blind!  They all, blindly, miss the point … Differing abilities are not signs of punishment for wrongdoing; and, when you keep looking for trouble, chances are you won’t know goodness when it’s staring you in the face.

The bread you really need

Morning: Psalm 68; 1 Kings 19:9–18; Ephesians 4:17–32Evening: Psalm 72; John 6:15–27
After he ‘feeds the 5000’, they want to make Jesus king.  He knows they want his power to supply their food and other necessities.  He warns against seeking only perishable bread.  Rather, work for what feeds your soul, what helps you live a full life. Jesus is saying … you may want to give power to people who make your dreams come true.  But your dreams are too small if they’re just about survival … I want you to ‘taste’ all that life promises … I want you to really live …  I am the ‘bread’ you really need.

Take what you have, and share it

Morning: Psalm 34; 1 Kings 19:1–8; Ephesians 4:1–16Evening: Psalm 33; John 6:1–14
The feeding of the 5000 appears in all 4 Gospels because it is central for the early Christian community.  It echoes the Last Supper, when Jesus institutes a sacred meal to remind us that all of life is a gift to be taken, blessed, broken open and shared.  One interpretation of the feeding of the 5000 is that the true miracle was that many shared what they had, and all were fed.  They were learning that life – like a fine bottle of wine received as a gift – is truly blessed when we take it, crack it open and share it.

Jesus … Way to wholeness

Morning: Psalm 103; Isaiah 62:1–5, 10–12; Revelation 19:11–16Evening: Psalm 148; Matthew 1:18–25
‘Jesus’, from the Hebrew, Yeshua, means “YHWH makes whole.”  For Jews, the name ‘God’ is too holy to be spoken; the 4 letters YHWH in Hebrew probably mean, “He who causes ‘that which is’ to be.”  So Jesus’ name means: “The Creator is making Creation whole.”  Therefore, for me, the Way of Jesus is a path to wholeness.  Just as Jesus’ mysterious name reflects the mystery of his birth, much in Creation is beyond our comprehension.  But if you think it’s worth reaching for deeper understanding, fasten your seat belts for another year of exploration!  Happy New Year, travelling companions!