Sunday, September 30, 2018

A new Way of life … like finding treasure!

Morning: Psalms 66, 67; Hosea 2:2-14; James 3:1-13

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.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

We don’t know much … but we know Love

Morning: Psalms 8, 148; Job 38:1 -7; Hebrews 1:1-14

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 28, 2018

Friday September 28th – Good News is hard to contain

Morning: Psalm 88; Esther 8:1-8, 15-17; Acts 19:21-41

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!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Make the whole world great!

Morning: Psalms 116, 117; Esther 7:1-10; Acts 19:11-20

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.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Rely on a wisdom greater than your own

Morning: Psalm 119:97-120; Esther 6:1-14; Acts 19:1-10

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.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Bringing out the best in us

Morning: Psalm 78:1-39; Esther 5:1-14; Acts 18:12-28

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.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Just “Sorry!” is not enough for forgiveness

Morning: Psalm 80; Esther 4:4-17; Acts 18:1-11

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.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Give, Pray, Fast … naturally!

Morning: Psalms 93, 96; Esther 3:1-4:3; James 1:19-27

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.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

God does not judge us; truth does

Morning: Psalms 75, 76; Esther 2:5-8, 15-23; Acts 17:16-34
Evening: 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.”

Friday, September 21, 2018

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!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

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.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

When you are truly free …

Morning: Psalm 72; Job 42:1-17; Acts 16:16-24;

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?

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Freedom from the power of death

Morning: Psalms 61, 62; Job 40:1, 41:1-11; Acts 16:6-15

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.

Monday, September 17, 2018

What do you think of Jesus?

Morning: Psalm 56, 57; Job 40:1-24; Acts 15:36 – 16:5

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?

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Our relationships are our real treasure

Morning: Psalms 24, 29: Job 38:1, 18-41; Revelation 18:1-8

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!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Jesus’s death a unifying force for humanity

Morning: Psalm 55; Job 38:1-17; Acts 15:22-35

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.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Wounded Healers

Morning: Psalm 66; Numbers 21:4-9; John 3:11-17

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!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Cross … instrument of Peace

Morning: Psalm 50; Job 29:1; 31:1-23; Acts 15:1-11

“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. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Awakened by Jesus

Morning: Psalm 119:49-72; Job 29:1; 30:1-2, 16-31; Acts 14:19-28

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.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

To live well, practice Habits of the Heart

Morning: Psalm 45; Job 29:1-20; Acts 14:1-18

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.

Monday, September 10, 2018

This shepherd is the real king

Morning: Psalms 41, 52; Job 32:1-10, 19 – 33:1, 19-28; Acts 13:44-52

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.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Salt that reveals the flavour of a new reality

Morning: Psalms 63, 98; Job 25:1-6; 27:1-6; Revelation 14:1-7, 13
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.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

The good shepherd serves the servants

Morning: Psalms 30, 32; Job 22:1-4,21 – 23:7; Acts 13:26-43

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.

Friday, September 7, 2018

I see … or maybe not

Morning: Psalm 31; Job 19:1-7, 14-27; Acts 13:13-25

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.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

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

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.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

What does Jesus mean? … keep reading …

Morning: Psalm 38; Job 12:1; 14:1-22; Acts 12:18-25

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!”

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Discerning what is true takes time and effort

Morning: Psalm 26, 28; Job 12:1; 13:3-17, 21-27; Acts 12:1-17

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.

Monday, September 3, 2018

How bad does it have to get before we listen?

Morning: Psalm 25; Job 12:1-6, 13-25; Acts 11:19-30

‘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!

Sunday, September 2, 2018

‘Heaven’ cannot wait

Morning: Psalms 148, 149, 150; Job 11: 1-9, 13-20; Revelation 5:1-14

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.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Let light shine … in you

Morning: Psalm 20, 21:1-7; Job 9:1; 10:1-5, 16-22; Acts 11:1-18

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.

Heaven is harmony not obedience

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