Saturday, June 30, 2018

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

Morning: Psalms107:33-43,108:1-13; Numbers 20:14-29; Romans 6:1-11

It is striking to me that today’s Gospel story is Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, the beginning of his final encounter with the powers-that-be, his final humble stand for justice and truth.  We all know the outcome of his work … both that he died because of his stance against unjust power, and that the movement that arose from his life still thrives and grows in the world after 2000 years.  I can definitely leave things in Jesus’ hands … not just for a month, but for life, right!?  

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

Friday, June 29, 2018

Peter and Paul, apostles of Jesus

Today we celebrate Peter and Paul, the greatest leaders of the early Jesus movement.  They sacrificed assumptions, religious prejudices, and even their lives, to be true to their experience of Jesus. We celebrate them still, though they would not have wanted anyone to speak well of them, only to be true. Why do people accept falsehood?  Peter and Paul would probably say it’s because they haven’t found the truth yet.  Peter and Paul died to share the truth about life, as they had heard it from Jesus, and as they had experienced it in him.  I’m glad they did.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Leadership is not about privilege, but sacrifice.

Morning: Psalm 105:1-22; Numbers 17:1-11; Romans 5:1-11

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

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

You cannot earn Love … you do not need to.

Morning: Psalm 101, 109:1-30; Numbers 16:36-50; Romans 4:13-25

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

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Jesus’ great new world

Morning: Psalms 97, 99; Numbers 16:20-35; Romans 4:1-12

Jesus offers a ridiculously impossible image – a camel going through the eye of a needle – to explain how difficult it is for one burdened by the cares and preoccupations of wealth to experience fullness of life.  In fact, it does not work. Thus, he turns the priorities of the world upside down – the ones now at the back of the line will find they are served first, and the ones now at the front will have to wait until last.  Such is the unexpected newness of the great new world Jesus ushers in on the earth ... something completely different!

Monday, June 25, 2018

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

Morning: Psalm 89:1-18; Numbers 16:1-19; Romans 3:21-31

They try to keep children away from Jesus … children should be kept quiet; out of the way … They have too much unpredictable, bubbly, uncontrollable energy.  But that’s exactly what Jesus welcomes.  He relishes the freshness of children, because they are free, not attached to too many things that they can’t let go of.  Jesus tells the young man that he needs one thing if he is to be whole – he must stop clinging to his possessions.  But that is too much for him.  He can’t let himself be free.  So he cannot experience a truly full life.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

John the Baptist: The Bridegroom’s Friend

Morning: Psalm 82, 98; Malachi 3:1-5; John 3:22-30

In a lovely wedding yesterday, I witnessed Martin and Lesley pledge their hearts to each another.  How justly pleased the groomsmen were for Martin.  The Hebrew Bible tells that one day the Messiah will make Israel his ‘bride’ … this marriage metaphor shows God’s deep love for humanity, represented by one nation. For Christians, Jesus is this Messiah.  When Jesus the ‘bridegroom’ comes to his ‘bride’, Israel, his friend John the Baptist is anything but the jealous groomsman; John beams with joy as his friend comes to serve the people of Israel and finally to make all peoples his ‘bride’.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

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

Morning: Psalms 87, 90; Numbers 13:31—14:25; Romans 3:9-20

John Wolfgang von Goethe, German writer and politician, wrote: “Give me the benefit of your convictions, if you have any, but keep your doubts to yourself, for I have enough of my own.”  Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, doubted Gabriel’s news that Elizabeth, his wife, would bear a child – she had not been able to before.  You could understand Zechariah having doubts, right!?  But his reward for doubting was to become mute until John was born … he would now have to keep his doubts to himself!  Ouch! … hence the modern expression of disbelief, “Shut up!”

Friday, June 22, 2018

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

Morning: Psalm 88; Numbers 13:1-3, 21-30; Romans 2:25—3:8

A friend admitted how hard forgiveness is.  Jesus says, Forgive always!  If you don’t, you suffer – not as punishment, but because not being able to forgive is itself a painful, inner torture.  God does not inflict suffering; it comes from disturbances in the natural order.  When you cannot forgive, your world is off-kilter and you suffer turmoil. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus connects experiencing forgiveness with the ability to forgive.  When I cannot forgive, maybe it’s that I myself feel unforgiven in some way?  I pray my friend will be able to make peace and find relief.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

How important each one of us is

Morning: Psalm 34; Numbers 12:1-16; Romans 2:12-24

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

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Violating a sacred trust by exploiting children

Morning: Psalm 119:97-120; Numbers 11:24-33; Romans 1:28—2:11

This week, we witness the plight of migrant children separated from their parents in America.  Jesus teaches: “Whoever becomes humble like (a) child is (great).  Whoever welcomes (a) child in my name welcomes me.”  A world that exploits the weakness and vulnerability of children – and justifies barbarity by Biblical proofs – is far from the kingdom of heaven.  Shockingly, all over the world, children are trafficked, enslaved, used as human shields and child soldiers.  The implication of Jesus’ words is clear: the mistreatment of children violates a sacred trust and threatens our humanity until we put a stop to it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Wisdom to choose the right moment

Morning: Psalm 78:1-39; Numbers 11:1-23; Romans 1:16-25

Every Jew paid a tax for the maintenance of the Temple in Jerusalem.  It was part of the politico-religious system that Jesus called out as exploitative, corrupt and ultimately doomed … a ‘den of thieves’.  One day it would fall, but this was not the time or place for Jesus to take a stand … the right moment to challenge the authority of the Temple and its rulers would come soon, in Jerusalem.  Sometimes we are compelled to challenge the spiritual forces of evil in this present age, and, like Jesus, we must choose wisely how, where and when.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Faith is drawing on a power greater than your own

Morning: Psalm 80; Numbers 9:15-23; 10:29-36; Romans 1:1-15

Early on, Jesus sends the disciples to heal the sick, raise the dead and cast out demons, and they do!  Now, with all their experience, they can’t.  Jesus is angry with them for their “little faith”.  Their problem is not the size or amount of their faith, but that their faith is misplaced … they are relying only on their own strength. Even Jesus himself needed prayer and fasting to empower him.  It’s easy to forget … Your own strength may be small, but when you draw on a power greater than your own, you can move mountains. 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Ready anytime for whoever shows up

Morning: Psalms 93, 96; Numbers 6:22-27; Acts 13:1-12

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

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Listen to him

Morning: Psalms 75, 76; Numbers 3:1-13; Galatians 6:11-18

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

Friday, June 15, 2018

Life for Life

Morning: Psalm 69:1-23, 31-38; Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:14; Galatians 5:25-6:10

Peter’s faith is like a “rock”, but he cannot accept that Jesus will lose his life because of his message.  Peter resists and becomes a “stumbling-block”.  Jesus’ message draws lethal resistance from the powerful ones who resist the transformation he brings.  The Way of Jesus demands that, as his apprentice, you must be ready to offer your life.  This rarely means you have to die for him.  But, as many of Jesus’ followers discover, the moment you stop grasping at life is the moment you discover what an amazing gift life is.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

On this rock

Morning: Psalms 70, 71; Ecclesiastes 11:1-8; Galatians 5:16-24

When Newfoundlanders hear the phrase, “On this Rock,” they think it’s about their beautiful island.  Well, it is about the solidity that characterizes that place, its capacity to weather storms and remain steadfast of character and spirit.  When Peter recognized who Jesus really was – somehow, incredibly, the power of the cosmos in human flesh – and when he worked up the courage to say it, Jesus said, now there’s something solid to build on, a faith that will see you through.  Build on that faith and you will overcome … even against all the powers of evil!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Beware of what tastes good but isn’t

Morning: Psalm 72; Ecclesiastes 9:11-18; Galatians 5:1-15

Have you felt tempted to eat a tasty morsel laden with unhealthy ingredients?  Sweet cakes tempt me. Some of the stories about Jesus are stories about the feeding of multitudes. These stories act like parables to encourage you to nourish your soul with goodness … with the kind of truth, justice and love shown in Jesus.  But, Jesus’ warns about the ‘leaven of the Pharisees’.  In other words, beware of ways of living or believing that are untrue – do not live a lie, or be untrue to yourself.  These may seem attractive but they will not nourish your soul.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The eternal longing for freedom … fulfilled in us

Morning: Psalms 61, 62; Ecclesiastes 8:14—9:10; Galatians 4:21-31

Isaiah(35) envisions Israel’s deliverance: “The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.” Jesus fulfils this vision.  He feeds multitudes, too, on a mountain … echoing Isaiah(25)’s mountain vision of a great feast for all peoples. Still today, people yearn for sight, to hear and be heard, to walk, and to find their voice.  Still today, the world longs for its deep spiritual hunger to be fed.  Tell them deliverance is coming ... be part of it.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Being Human … Courage to care for one another

Morning: Psalms 15, 67; Acts 4:32-37

Today is St. Barnabas’ Day.  Before becoming St. Paul’s companion, Barnabas sold a field and gave the money to the apostles. Among the early Christians, no one claimed private ownership; everything was held in common.  As they shared their faith “there was not a needy person among them”.  Barnabas means ‘son of encouragement’ – perhaps he did inspire others to take courage?  Early Christians learned from Jesus that being human is about caring for one another.  And, in the spirit of Barnabas, modern Christians might still aspire to rediscover the richness of our humanity and the will to live it courageously.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Give your heart to what will endure

Morning: Psalms 24, 29; Ecclesiastes 6:1-12; Acts 10:9-23

A woman we know grows vegetables where the soil is poor.  When she hears I plan to garden someday, she says, “Start now; it takes years to build up good soil.”  If something life-giving captures your heart, don’t wait for a better time – there isn’t one.  A professor of mine said, “Read the best books first.”  Jesus says devote yourself now to what really matters: downsize, be generous, focus on life’s real treasures, give your heart now to what will last – be clear about what that is – and you will experience what they sometimes call ‘heaven’... right here.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Spot the hypocrite … but then again, better not!

Morning: Psalm 55; Ecclesiastes 5:8-20; Galatians 3:23—4:11

The Pharisees and scribes criticize those who do not observe the letter of the Law.  Jesus points out that the Pharisees forget the Spirit of the Law; their hands are clean but they are dark inside … They may appear pure and holy on the outside, but they are full of trouble.  Some people say that they have decided to avoid churches because churches are full of hypocrites.  As Jesus pointed out, though, they would do well to remember that hypocrisy is prone to point the finger at others while being blissfully unaware of its own contradictions.

Friday, June 8, 2018

You don’t have to walk on water

Morning: Psalms 40, 54; Ecclesiastes 5:1-7; Galatians 3:15-22

It’s exhilarating to ‘walk on water’ when the Lakes are frozen in wintertime!  Jesus does not call people, though, to copy him, but to follow in his Way.  There are moments on life’s path when we may be faced with seemingly crazy or impossible challenges. This story of Jesus seems to say: In such impossible moments, keep your eyes fixed on his way of seeing the world.  Then, the storms that life throws your way will not overwhelm you and you will be empowered to bring love, peace and hope to a needy world … as Peter did.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Law or Faith?

Morning: Psalm 50; Ecclesiastes 3:16—4:3; Galatians 3:1-14

The radically new thing about Jesus is his invitation to trust God instead of striving to obey what people believe are God’s rules.  In other words, live by Faith rather than by Law.  Trying always to do the right thing, Paul suggests, is a curse; God does not want us to live under that curse, but in a free, trusting and loving relationship with the Cosmos and the Creator.  What this means is that when you live in trust and love, in keeping with Jesus’ invitation, you know how to live a good life, and you choose to, without compulsion.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Standing against the present powers

Morning: Psalm 119:49-72; Ecclesiastes 3:1-15; Galatians 2:11-21

Yesterday was the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.  Did you recall the picture of the lone rebel standing in the path of four army tanks?  Sometimes the present powers don’t accept being questioned.  John stood against Herod and was executed. Jesus, too, stood firm against unrighteous power and was killed.  I wonder: “On which side of the powers do I stand?”  Sometimes that’s not clear.  Even when it is, I [don't] always have the courage to stand, with Jesus, for justice … I pray that I might.  Better still, perhaps we can stand together?

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The humbling experience of your hometown

Morning: Psalm 45; Ecclesiastes 2:16-26; Galatians 1:18 – 2:10

I left Manchester, England when I was 18 and never went back there to live.  Now, when I visit my family there, I sometimes feel as if they think of me as the same immature, annoying teenager that left there in 1971!  Do you ever have that kind of experience with your family?  I find it humbling, to say the least … that people think I haven’t gained any wisdom or understanding in all these years!  Maybe I’ve gained less than I think?  It’s vaguely reassuring that Jesus had a similar experience in his hometown.

Monday, June 4, 2018

What will the end be like? … Joy, not more suffering

Morning: Psalms 41, 52; Ecclesiastes 2:1-15; Galatians 1:1-17
Evening: Psalm 44; Matthew 13:44-52

Scholars agree that scribes and editors have put into Jesus’ mouth their own explanations of what he meant.  I trust that this Gospel passage is one of these: “At the end of the age, the angels will separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire.” Really?  I’m confident Jesus foretold the final victory of good over evil.  But I believe he taught that God’s final intention for all things is not weeping and gnashing of teeth, but the joy of finding hidden treasure … not more suffering, but the end of suffering

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Prayer doesn’t change God but the one who prays

Morning: Psalm 63:1-11; Ecclesiastes 1:1-11; Acts 8:26-40
Prayer is consistently understood as asking for things. As with other clich├ęd ways of thinking, it is difficult to see prayer differently … when you believe you know what something means, you don’t hear when an alternative is offered.  But the Lord’s Prayer – the model Jesus gives his disciples to teach them to pray – begins with an invitation that God’s ways will prevail rather than ours.  The rest of the prayer seeks help to live well.  Thus Jesus teaches that prayer changes us, not God.  And when we persist with it, prayer transforms our hearts.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Contentment: The Life that really is Life

Morning: Psalms 30, 32; Proverbs 25:15-28; 1 Timothy 6:6-21
Some people tell me they’re ‘down-sizing’ … they have accumulated too much.  St. Paul says ‘great gain’ comes from contentment since “we brought nothing into the world and it is certain we can take nothing out of it.”  Shun riches and the love of money, says Paul; instead, “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness … fight the good fight of faith”.  Then he encourages the rich in good works, generosity and sharing … so that they may have “the life that really is life.”  In other words … seeking Life’s fulfilment in riches is an illusion.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Goodness grows in the world from small seeds

Morning: Psalm 31; Proverbs 23:19-21, 29-24:2; 1 Timothy 5:17-25
Evening: Psalm 35; Matthew 13:31-35

Jesus describes in parables what he calls the “kingdom of heaven” … not in specific terms but enough that you know his vision of human destiny is of something very good.  This “kingdom” will really come here ‘on earth’, but not without challenges.  Even as goodness grows in the world, evil forces may attempt to supplant it … but to no avail.  The parables of mustard seed and yeast express the hope that even small, apparently insignificant, influences may be such a power for good that goodness itself will come to define our lives. Indeed, that’s possible now.

The wheat and chaff in us all

Morning: Psalms 93, 96 ; 2 Kings 4:8-37 ; Acts 9:10-31 Evening: Psalm 34 ; Luke 3:7-18 A casing protects wheat until it is ripe; then th...