Monday, February 29, 2016

The Extravagant Son and Father . . .

Image by Liz Lemon Swindle

The Experience of Spirit . . . Spirituality and Storytelling . . .
By John Shea                                                                       
A Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Lent

On the hill beside his home the Father waits.  He has been there before.  He sees his son coming from a distance and lifting his robes above his knees he runs to greet him. The servants who are out in the field watch the old man running past them, his breath short, his eyes never wavering.  By the time the younger son sees him, the father is on top of him. He embraces his son and weeps down his neck.             
“O Father,” said the son, his arms never leaving his side.
“Bring the robe,” said the Father.  The servants had gathered around.

“I have sinned.”
“Bring the ring.”

“Against heaven.”
“Bring the sandals.”

“And against you.”
“Kill the fatted calf.”

“Do not take me back.”
“Call in the musicians.”

“As a son.”
“My SON,” and these words the father whispered into his ear, “was dead and has come back to life.”

“But as a hired hand.”

“My SON was lost and is now found.”

The party had no choice but to begin.  The older brother was out in the fields. He had worked late as usual.  The sweat of the endless day dripped down his face.  When he drew near the house, he stopped at the top of the hill.  He heard the sounds of rejoicing and dancing.  He grabbed one of the servant boys and asked him what was happening.  The boy said, “Your younger brother has returned and his father has killed the fatted calf and is rejoicing.

“Go, and tell my father I will not party with him,” said the older brother.
The servant boy entered the house and within moments the father came out of his home.  He pulled his robe above his knees and, out of breath but with his eyes unwavering, climbed up the hill to where his older son was standing.

“O my beloved son!” the father said, and embracing him, he wept upon his neck.
“All these years,” said the older brother, his arms at his sides. 
“I have slaved for you.”

“O my beloved son!” said the Father.  And with the sleeve of his robe he wiped the sweat from his son’s forehead.

“And you have never given me a calf so that I might party with my friends.  But this son of yours comes groveling home having squandered your inheritance with prostitutes; and for him, for him you kill the fatted calf.”

“O my beloved son!” said the father a third time.  “You have been with me always and all I have is yours.  But if any son of mine was lost, surely this feast will find him.  If any brother you know is dead, surely this party will bring him to life.” 

Then the father kissed both of the earth-hardened hands of his oldest son.

Suddenly the father was old.  He was a tired man.  He turned and moved back down the hill.  When he reached the bottom, he noticed his younger son had come out of the house.  The robe he had put on him had slid off one shoulder.  The ring he had given him had been too large for his starved finger and barely clung to the knuckle.  The leather of the sandals had already cut a ridge on his ankles.  The father looked back up at his oldest son.  He seemed to be frowning.  The sweat was still on him.  Between them both stood the father.

The music from the party, that at the moment none of them were at, drifted from the house and hung in the air between the three of them.  Suddenly the father was no longer tired.  He lifted his robes, and there between the son on the hill and the son outside the house, the joy of his heart overflowed into his feet.  In broken rhythm be began to dance, hoping the music he could not resist would find the hearts of the two brothers and bring his sons, his true inheritance, back to him. . . .
The Prodigal Son by Carrie Marsh

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Spirituality of Multi-tasking!

Two Drops of Oil
Spiritual Story by Paulo Coelho

A merchant sent his son to learn the Secret of Happiness from the wisest of men. The young man wandered through the desert for forty days until he reached a beautiful castle at the top of a mountain. There lived the sage that the young man was looking for.

 However, instead of finding a holy man, our hero entered a room and saw a great deal of activity; merchants coming and going, people chatting in the corners, a small orchestra playing sweet melodies, and there was a table laden with the most delectable dishes of that part of the world.

 The wise man talked to everybody, and the young man had to wait for two hours until it was time for his audience.

With considerable patience, he listened attentively to the reason for the boy's visit, but told him that at that moment he did not have the time to explain to him the Secret of Happiness.

He suggested that the young man take a stroll around his palace and come back in two hours' time.

"However, I want to ask you a favor," he added, handing the boy a teaspoon, in which he poured two drops of oil. "While you walk, carry this spoon and don't let the oil spill."
The young man began to climb up and down the palace staircases, always keeping his eyes fixed on the spoon. At the end of two hours he returned to the presence of the wise man.

 "So," asked the sage, "did you see the Persian tapestries hanging in my dining room? Did you see the garden that the Master of Gardeners took ten years to create? Did you notice the beautiful parchments in my library?" Embarrassed, the young man confessed that he had seen nothing. His only concern was not to spill the drops of oil that the wise man had entrusted to him.

"So, go back and see the wonders of my world," said the wise man. "You can't trust a man if you don't know his house."

Now more at ease, the young man took the spoon and strolled again through the palace, this time paying attention to all the works of art that hung from the ceiling and walls. He saw the gardens, the mountains all around the palace, the delicacy of the flowers, the taste with which each work of art was placed in its niche. Returning to the sage, he reported in detail all that he had seen.

"But where are the two drops of oil that I entrusted to you?" asked the sage.
Looking down at the spoon, the young man realized that he had spilled the oil.

 "Well, that is the only advice I have to give you," said the sage of sages. "The Secret of Happiness lies in looking at all the wonders of the world and never forgetting the two drops of oil in the spoon."

Poetry & Prayer . . .

Ready for Spring (by Annette L. Sherwood, 2013)

 I stand here watching
 waiting, listening
 in early Spring
 I see the tiny bud
 shooting up from
 the tip of the branch
 in anticipation, I remain still

 I take in the cold air,
 watching a few snowflakes fall by,
 even feeling some of them
 melt on my cheek
 I breathe in this Holy moment

 I did not plant the seed,
 nor spend effort to encourage
 original years of growth

 No, that was not my work
 only yours, Dear One I stand here with you now,
 holding your hand,
 awaiting Spring

 We’ve made it through
 another harsh spell,
 cold, windy, bare
 facing together a New Season,
 we stand in a patch of wet snow
 as it melts at our feet

 Here I am, to Rejoice with you
 as we experience New Growth
 little buds are formed,
 the flowering has already begun
 together or apart, we delight
 and share this moment
 knowing New Life,
 fresh perspective, and green leaves
 are arriving,
 even as the last storm is passing…

Spring starts blossoming now

 The winter of our hearts will
 begin to fade into cold
 distant memories

 Joy begins sprouting
 with our eyes,
 in our smiles,
 as it softens our hearts,
 leading us to laughter

 Hope enters,
 which we know
 will bud,
 into the flower,
 and then the seed,
 gently dropping to feed the birds

 The passing order of this Season
 feels like it is rooting us on
 toward New Life

 Before long,
 these cold days will pass away
 into warm ones with
 mild breezes
 Easter Blessings
 carrying a new promise for Life

 In Gratitude,
 I bear witness
 to Your Beautiful Spring
 and Celebrate!

Prayer in the Poem . . .

Image by sjh/osu
Walking My Path
by Annette L. Sherwood 2013)

Seeking God in my own time and place
there is something Holy in my seeking
My seeking –
the unknown path I walk
steady and slow my pace
sure – and steady
purposeful steps taken
I feel each one touch the ground
there is a holiness to it –
I feel it-
the confidence comes from
accepting my own rhythm –
with Grace of the creative universe
- slow - and constantly moving
steady, strong, sure
as obstacles come to me
I wait, pause, reflect,
and then take my own trusted
course of action –
not always welcomed
and yet – my assured path
step, step
I move again
comfortable within myself
assured that I have wisdom
in God’s guidance
listening and leading
moving deeper within
leaving some behind
with a prayer for peace
and taking another brave step toward
Wonder, Awe, Unknown –
where God dwells
beyond my understanding

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Umbrella Prayer . . .

As a drought continued for what seemed an eternity, a small community of farmers was in a quandary as to what to do. Rain was important to keep their crops healthy and sustain the way of life of the townspeople.

As the problem became more acute, a local pastor called a prayer meeting to ask for rain. Many people arrived. The pastor greeted most of them as they filed in. As he walked to the front of the church to officially begin the meeting he noticed most people were chatting across the aisles and socializing with friends.

When he reached the front his thoughts were on quieting the attendees and starting the meeting. His eyes scanned the crowd as he asked for quiet. He noticed an eleven year-old girl sitting quietly in the front row. Her face was beaming with excitement. Next to her, poised and ready for use, was a bright red umbrella. The little girl's beauty and innocence made the pastor smile as he realized how much faith she possessed. No one else in the congregation had brought an umbrella. All came to pray for rain, but the little girl had come expecting God to answer.

Terror and Transformation . . .

The Dew Drop 
    Peter Hughes

As the sun rose, a dew drop became aware of its surroundings. There it sat on a leaf, catching the sunlight and throwing it back out. Proud of its simple beauty, it was very content. Around it were other dew drops, some on the same leaf and some on other leaves round about. The dew drop was sure that it was the best, the most special dew drop of them all.

Ah, it was good to be a dew drop.The wind rose and the plant began to shake, tipping the leaf. Terror gripped the dew drop as gravity pulled it towards the edge of the leaf, towards the unknown. Why? Why was this happening? Things were comfortable. Things were safe. Why did they have to change? Why? Why?

The dew drop reached the edge of the leaf. It was terrified, certain that it would be smashed into a thousand pieces below, sure that this was the end. The day had only just begun and the end had come so quickly. It seemed so unfair. It seemed so meaningless. It tried desperately to do whatever it could to cling to the leaf, but it was no use.

Finally, it let go, surrendering to the pull of gravity. Down, down it fell. Below there seemed to be a mirror. A reflection of itself seemed to be coming up to meet the dew drop. Closer and closer they came together until finally...

And then the fear transformed into deep joy as the tiny dew drop merged with the vastness that was the pond. Now the dew drop was no more, but it was not destroyed.

It had become one with the whole.


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Transfiguration, Transformation!

Servant Freed!
I stand in the darkened fissure of the stable,
lit only by the glowing face of the boy-child.
Parent eyes glistening with holy wonder,
while heavened stars point to
mangered Messiah.
I listen, I wonder, I breathe,
for I am only servant.

I stand in the darkened temple portico
observing those of the Law encircling
the teacher-child.
His face radiates with
purpose and passion about God’s call!
I listen, I wonder, I breathe,
for I am only servant.

I stand in the Cana garden among
the six stoneware water jars.
His mother moving his mission,

“Do whatever he tells you.”
Waters of purification touched
with words of transformation
become intoxicating wedding wine.
Speak these words over me . . .
Fill me to the brim with courage as
I listen, as I wonder, as I breathe,
For I am only servant.

I stand along the steep grassy edges of the
partial rocky hillside,
His face emits energy with each spoken,
“Blessed are you!”
I listen, I wonder, I breathe,
for I am only servant.

I stand in the upper room, corner-concealed,
yet his eyes beckon me to move
within his touch.
His carpentered hands accept each foot
as with the artistry of fitting rough hewn wood.
With tender, soothing, healing – intimate
knowing, he bends to wash my feet.
Upon this embrace – God-light, God-love
streams into my very soul –
I listen and hear within me:
Untie her.
What do you want me to do for you?
Pick up your mat.
I do not condemn you.
You are worth more than many sparrows.
You are no longer servant – you are friend.
I wonder, I breathe . . .


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Origin of the Cloud Server~The Transfiguration!

The Transfiguration is a major turning point in the life of Jesus and his trusty companions.  Smack dab in the middle of the Gospel, it presents this event which follows upon Jesus’ first foretelling of his passion and death.  What a story of high drama and super special effects!  Former prophets showing up in hologram form, a talking cloud, and Jesus’ clothes turning dazzling white.  However, this turning point is a result of an instant “Feasibility Study.”  God is saying: “Look folks, from here on in it's all downhill.  My Beloved will be rejected, suffer, and die at the hands of the elders and chief priests.”  This is certainly not good news for the disciples.  Sorry, no chance of setting up house at the top of this mountain.  “Moses and Elijah appear to Jesus to encourage him to fulfill this mission of nonviolence, and he turns into bright white light, the biblical sign of martyrdom, and becomes the risen Christ.” His future is now foretold . . . believe it or not.

A turning point is described as an event marking a unique or important historical change of course, or the point at which a very significant change occurs; a decisive moment. This is a decisive moment in the life of Jesus – his support group is going to need to be his “backup singers” and not question why all will unfold in a most terrifying manner. For this moment truly calls for “deep listening” and no one will be the same after this mountain top moment. Turning points do that to all of us.  How many turning points can we name in our lives?  A birth of a child, a death of a child, the loss of a dream-job, or the acquiring of a dream-job, an experience of rejection, a sudden health crisis, financial crisis, an uprising in which a power system is toppled, or a series of natural disasters in which homes, resources, and the lives of many people are destroyed, or a proposal of marriage, or a decision to enter a religious lifestyle!!
So our practice for the week is to ponder the turning points in our own lives. Then I invite you to journal about that one significant event for you and reflect and respond to the questions: What?, When?, Where?, Who? And write out your significant scenario. After that writing, read it aloud, and then list any learnings you took away from that turning point. Then read the entry again, along with your list of learnings, and pray to name the new wisdoms that you hold. 

For example.  When I was just about 8, I almost drowned. See my past posting of April 12, 2012.  I can say that one of my learnings in that turning point is that it is best to know how to swim when you’re going to be in deep water. But a wisdom that I now hold is that when life seems overwhelming, or I feel like I’m “drowning” in tasks or expectations, then it is best that I just “turn over and float.”  That is, I need to take time for quieting, stillness, and contemplation to do deep listening of the challenge and gift that God is offering me.  This then becomes a turning point on my journey of my own transfiguration of love, faith, joy, forgiveness, and hope.

Turning Points
Taking us
Where we would not choose to go
We pass a point
We will never pass again.
Turning points interrupt us . . .
There must be some mistake!
Looking back we see them
For what they are:
Bittersweet raw reality
Breakthrough to beatitude
Bedrock that gives us courage
To give ourselves away.
The less we struggle with turning points
The greater the strength
To return and turn again

(Author unknown)

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Valentine's Day ~ Called to Love by Love!

Graphic by Doris Klein, CSA
The Heart of Eternal Love

Heart of Love,
Source of all kindness,
Teacher of the ways of goodness,
You are hidden in the pockets of daily life,
Waiting to be discovered.

Heart of Gladness,
Joy that sings in our souls,
The Dancer and the Dance,
You are Music radiating in our
Cherished caches of consolation.

Heart of Compassion,
The Healing One weeping
For a world burdened and bent,
You are the heart we bring
To the wounded, worn and weary.

Heart of Comfort,
Sheltering Wings of Love,
Refuge for sad and lonely ones,
You embrace all who bear loss,
Gathering their tears with care.

Heart of all Hearts,
The First and Best of all Companions,
You are the Gift secreted in our depths,
Connecting us with others.

Heart of Understanding,
One who gazes upon the imperfect,
The incomplete, the flawed, the weak,
You never stop extending mercy.

Heart of Freedom,
The Uncontained Spirit bearing truth,
Great Liberator, forever calling to us,
You urge us toward unrestrained trust.

Heart of Genenerosity,
Abundance of insight and hope,
Daily you offer us gifts of growth,
Leading to continual transformation.

Heart of Deepest Peace,
Center of Tranquility,
Resting Place at the core of our being,
You are waiting always for our return
To this sacred home.

--Joyce Rupp
Out of the Ordinary

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Lent and Liminality

First Sunday of Lent ~

Allow me to share the following theology statement from our CSA Constitutions:
Transitions of every sort mark our lives. We try to recognize in each of them a graced moment in our ongoing formation, one in which we can live out the paschal mystery and build the kingdom of God. (#58)

Some transitions are inevitable in our human experience, some are probable, and others are possible but perhaps not likely.  Birth, adolescence, mid-life, senior life, death. .. are transitions that are natural to every human experience, given an average life span.  Even in our own community, we have had many transitions: Can we remember when we initiated de-centralized government?   We continue to encounter transitions in which we are invited to name our present reality as we evolve into the future. 

Transitions always begin with endings that place us in an in-between space – or liminality that is uncomfortable, uncertain, disorienting; there may be a loss of a sense of identity, and oftentimes we can experience a change in our relationship with our self and perhaps with God as well. 

When we face those times of uncertainty in our life, the scene is often blurry.  Things we were so sure of suddenly make little sense.  The answers we thought were clear now seem lost in a distant fog, and we wander aimlessly, unable to regain the focus we once believed we had. Our confusion is unsettling.  Doubt, like vertigo, distorts our balance as we fearfully wander in a vast and empty inner wilderness.  As we wrestle with the darkness, a rush of panic washes into our hearts, our breath becomes shallow and, with each question, the judgments seem to escalate.” (S. Doris Klein)

Here in our gospel, we find Jesus smack dab in the midst of transition – and “knee deep” in liminal space.  This could be considered his novitiate, or sabbatical time, a vision quest, or the Spirit’s idea of boot camp for prophets.
After Jesus heard God call him my “Beloved” at his baptism, we are told that the spirit drove him into the desert to discover what it would mean to be God’s Beloved. 

It is here in this wilderness that his spiritual, psychological, and personal inner strength is challenged by the tempter who is the master of delusion, denial, and lies, and who is taunting him to choose the “dark side.” 

Jesus’ desert drama is a struggle that will prepare him for all that awaits him in his public ministry and mission as the Anointed One.  He will carry no light saber or magic wand to ward off the critics, opponents, or enemies that find him too much for them.

Here in the wilderness, he has fasted for forty days and forty nights.  It is here on the margins of the city that he will wrestle with the demons of hunger, power, prestige, possessions, and fame. In his physical emptiness, he is made vulnerable in his title as Beloved.  He is confronted by the tempter to turn stones into bread – a temptation that entices him to believe that if his hunger would be satisfied with earthly pleasures – it will be enough. 

It is here in the school of the desert that he chooses  the emptiness of letting go of all that satisfied him in the past – his relationships of his village, his family, his simple life of carpentry, his privacy, his identity,  For Jesus all of the comfortable, familiar, and secure have ended.  He refuses to give in to the tempter of illusion and is nourished again by the voice and words of God - for his journey will be one of feeding the hungry in spirit, mind, and body with the bread of his words.

His second temptation is to doubt God’s abiding love. Jesus is challenged to test whether or not God is really trustworthy.  Jumping from the pinnacle of the temple would gain Jesus instant acclaim as a wonder worker, winning over the multitudes. But Jesus stands firm.  He refuses to give in to self-destruction and self-hatred and chooses to remain faithful to God, trusting God’s unconditional love.

Finally, the tempter shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and taunts that if he is God’s Beloved, why not be popular, famous, and have a chance to be a rock star?  This is a subtle temptation for domination and power, to become an owner of everything, having control of everyone, in charge of life itself.  The price demanded by the tempter for all the kingdoms of the world was to worship him. Jesus again says that being the Beloved is all that he needs and chooses faithfulness to God.

So what is the Good News for us? 
“To struggle is to begin to see the world differently.   It gives us a new sense of self.  It tests all the faith in the goodness of God that we have ever professed.  It requires an audacity we did not know we had.  It demands a commitment to the truth. It builds forbearance. It tests our purity of heart. It brings total metamorphosis of soul.

 If we are willing to persevere through the depths of struggle we can emerge with conversion, faith, courage, surrender, self-acceptance, endurance, and a kind of personal growth that takes us beyond pain to understanding.  Enduring struggle is the price to be paid for becoming everything we are meant to be in the world.” (Joan Chittister)

Let us ponder:
• As individuals, as a community, a church, as people of this shared planet . . . how do we face struggles with the hungers, illusions, and powers of temptation that confront us every day? 

• What struggles do we face at this juncture of “in-betweenness” and liminality? Can we accept the challenges: to name them, realize their impact, and consequences?  Then, how will we choose to walk with trust, hope, and audacity into the now and not-yet?
• What is the grace we desire at this time at the beginning of Lent, as we prepare to move through the paschal mystery?
• What gifts within our present transitions are we invited to claim?  Are we able to surrender to this time of conversion, allowing angels to minister to us and to nourish us with God’s Word and the faith of one another, letting go of the needs and desires that separate us from God?

So let us pray:
Transitions of every sort mark our lives. We try to recognize in each of them a graced moment in our ongoing formation, one in which we can live out the paschal mystery and build the kingdom of God. (#58)

Monday, February 8, 2016

Mardi Gras Prayer ~ Feasting and Fasting

Mardi Gras Prayer

Blessed are you, God of all creation,
for it is from your goodness that we have this day
to celebrate on the threshold of the Season of Lent.

Tomorrow we will fast and abstain from meat.
Today we feast.
We thank you for the abundance of gifts you shower upon us.
We thank you especially for one another.
As we give you thanks,
we are mindful of those who have so much less than we do.
As we share these wonderful gifts together,
we commit ourselves to greater generosity toward those
who need our support.

Prepare us for tomorrow.
Tasting the fullness of what we have today,
let us experience some hunger tomorrow.
May our fasting make us more alert
and may it heighten our consciousness
so that we might be ready to hear your Word
and respond to your call.

As our feasting fills us with gratitude
so may our fasting and abstinence hollow out in us
a place for deeper desires
and an attentiveness to hear the cry of the poor.
May our self-denial turn our hearts to you
and give us a new freedom for
generous service to others.

We ask you these graces
with our hearts full of delight
and stirring with readiness for the journey ahead.
We ask them with confidence
in the name of Jesus the Lord.
 (Creighton University)
Prayer ~ Fasting ~ Almsgiving

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Feasting and Fasting . . .the Lenten Journey!

Window in CSA Motherhouse Chapel ~
Artist: Guy Kemper


Lent is more than just a giving up.  It is giving… developing a greater love towards God, self and others. LENT can be a FEAST AND A FAST...
Fast from worry; feast on trusting God.
Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives; feast on affirmatives.
Fast from hostility; feast on tenderness.

Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer.
Fast from judging others; feast on Christ dwelling in them.
Fast from fear of illness; feast on the healing power of God.
Fast from words that pollute; feast on speech that purifies.

Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger; feast on patience.
Fast from personal anxiety; feast on the fullness of truth.

Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.
Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.
Fast from discouragement; feast on hope.
Fast from suspicion; feast on truth.

Fast from lethargy and apathy; feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from facts that depress; feast on truths that uplift.
Fast from gossip; feast on purposeful silence.

Fast from problems that overwhelm; feast on prayer that sustains.
Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of light.

-adapted and revised from The Anglican Digest

God, we honor the Mystery of your presence in us.  We celebrate through feasting and fasting your Indwelling Presence in our daily lives.  You are here today in ways we did not know.  We cherish your presence in our lives as we journey through life.  We receive your joy in the midst of our sorrows.  We receive your love in the midst of our fears and we receive your light in the midst of our darkness . . .

And so we pray:

May there always be a little light in our darkness.

May there always be a little faith in our doubt.

May there always be a little joy in our sorrow.

May there always be a little life in our dying.

May there always be a little hope in our sadness.

May there always be a little courage in our fear.

May there always be a little slow in our hurry.  Amen.      
(Adapted from Song of the Seed by Macrina Wiederkehr)

Ash Wednesday . . .Believe in the Gospel!

Ash Wednesday -

In May of 2006 in the cities of New York and Los Angeles a documentary film opened.  On Memorial Day weekend the film grossed an average of $91,500 per theatre, the highest of any movie that weekend and a record for a documentary, though it was only playing on 4 screens at the time. The film has grossed over $24 million in the US and over $42 million worldwide as of January of 2007. 

The film to which I refer is entitled, An Inconvenient Truth.  It was an Academy Award nominated documentary film about climate change, specifically global warming, directed by Davis Guggenheim and starring former United States Vice President Al Gore. The film explores data and predictions regarding climate change.  Gore reviews the scientific evidence for global warming, discusses the politics and economics of global warming, and describes the consequences he believes global climate change will produce if the amount of human-generated greenhouse gases is not significantly reduced in the very near future.

In one particular scenario, he presents the film footage of his presentation on this subject to the US Senate in 1992 and he also brought in climate scientists to authenticate his findings.  He thought that once legislators heard the compelling evidence, they would be driven to action.  Not so.  Some listened, some became disbelieving and others shirked it off.It was simply viewed as an inconvenient truth.

Our Gospel for Ash Wednesday is a small section from Matthew’s writings of the Sermon on the Mount.  If we read between the lines, we will discover why Jesus was an Inconvenient Truth for both the religious and political leaders of his time.   “He was a presence that disturbed the status quo; he burst the bonds of tradition, for Jesus was the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophesies – he was none other than the Messiah.” His words would stabilize and destabilize, comfort and discomfort – he spoke what people didn’t want to hear; his words were full of force and challenge.

Jesus was an outsider by choice.  He seemed to be attracted by the people who lived at the margins of society.   He was forever wandering on the borders and crossing boundaries.   He banqueted with sinners and tax collectors; played with children and blessed them.
Women were in relationship with Jesus.  He healed them, touched them, raised them up, and freed them from demons and patterns of life which restricted them. He spoke to people of the Reign of God. He spoke to their hearts.  Here they were accepted, loved and liberated.

He challenged them to become light and salt; to forgive and love their enemies, to ask, to seek, and to knock on the door of God’s heart; to walk through the narrow gate; and that when they fasted or gave alms that it would not be done for show; that they would give away their extra cloak, go the extra mile and bend and wash each other’s feet. He could speak to the wind and the waves of the sea; he cast out demons, he gavevision to the blind, and the capacity to stand tall to the lame and all those bent over from the backbreaking burdens of the Law.

Truly, he was the Way, the Life and the Inconvenient Truth.

Jesus calls us all to be disciples. Jesus’ idea of discipleship is not about giving people answers but leading them into that space where they will long and yearn for God – for wisdom, for healing and for transformation.  Every authentic encounter with the Holy, “every true experience of God in whatever form, makes a person less insular, less complacent, and less isolated – and more restless, more inspired and more engaged with the world and humanity.”

And now we begin the season of Lent.  The purpose of Lent is to confront us with ourselves  in a way that’s conscious and purposeful, that enables us to deal with the rest of life well.  Throughout this journey of Lent, let us be open to all and every word, nudge, challenge, invitation, encounter and opportunity of the Holy One, who leads us to our own truth – be it convenient or inconvenient …

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Jesus the Depth-Finder!

Our Gospel story for this Sunday, reminds me of the time in which four of us women went fishing with our families. The women were in one boat and the dads were in the other. The deal was that the boat with the team that caught the most fish would not have to clean the fish. In other words, losers get the guts, but no glory!

Both boats went out early evening.  For a while no one was catching fish. Suddenly, we women hit a pocket of active small fish, and soon we filled our nets, the pail in the boat, and part of the boat’s floor so that the fish were flapping around our ankles!  At the end of our time, we came ashore to claim our prize of having caught the most fish while the dads got the prize of cleaning all the fish! Then our mothers prepared them all and we banqueted together to celebrate our abundant haul of fish!

This Sunday’s Gospel is another “fish story”- and in particular, a story of call, in which Jesus is not only trolling for companions, but seriously out to “hook” members for his “fishing team." He is near the lake, a place of great village activity, and “catches” Simon and his buddies doing what they do best. He climbs into Simon Peter’s boat, asks him to push away from the shore, and does what he does best, -  a little teaching to lure them into listening to his message. How do you like Jesus’ assertive skills?  At times when we are aware that God is truly “in our boat”, we feel comfortable, secure, everything seems to be going smoothly. But life being what it is, can cause turbulence and rock our boat quite suddenly to make us feel afraid, insecure, wobbly - we may even feel that we might fall out and drown!

Jesus, the carpenter, (who may even have had a hand in building these boats) asks Simon and his gang to stop cleaning their nets and go out again. Jesus says, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Now Simon, a professional fisherman, and a savvy businessman, is a little hesitant, or possibly a tad - or maybe a whole lot skeptical with this request – but somehow is trusting in his depths that this will be worth it. This was their livelihood –yet, this would be a significant financial gamble. They do follow through and soon their nets are filled to the breaking point and the boats are on the verge of sinking.  Jesus calls them again, (some of us need repeated callings) but this time with more clarity and intensity - Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.”  Then we are told that they left everything, father, brothers, boats, business – everything.  Yikes – this was pure grace!!

Today, fishing has gone high-tech. Fisher-persons have instruments such as ultrasound-like fish finding gadgets, sonar, GPS, depth finders, and touch screen - hi-resolution 3D fish finders.  You can literally see the kind of fish that’s swimming around under your boat, in super clear images and in real time.

After reflecting on this story, I think I'd like to consider Jesus as a “depth finder.”  He truly saw the depth within Simon and his friends and knew they would be a great catch for his ministry.  They were team people; they were hard workers; they were (no doubt) multilingual, patient, and community oriented. Why not invite them? Why not cast a net of love, empowerment, and challenge around them to move their gifts into the light beyond the boundaries and borders of this village? Beyond what they had always known.

So what is the Good News for us to ponder?
• What is our “boat” that gives us safety, comfort, and possibly “stuckness”?
• Are we willing to search the depths of ourselves within to find our potential?
• What are we willing to let go of to respond to God’s voice in our lives to possibly be a servant leader? 
• Are we a person who is willing to step out of our own boat of comfort, control, set attitudes, and patterns of behavior and be about the call to search out the potential in ourselves?  In others?  - and invite them to find God in their depths as well?

“The person who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare. The sure-thing boat never gets far from shore.” Dale Carnegie

“Noah was a brave man to sail in a wooden boat with two termites.”

Previously posted