Monday, March 31, 2014

Collaboration with God

This week's theme is Collaboration.  To collaborate is to work jointly on an activity, especially to produce or create something. Interestingly it is the not so new buzz word around in terms of management styles and working with others.  The synonyms are interesting as well, co-operate, join forces, team up, band together, work together, participate, combine, ally.

If one takes to heart the words of Teresa of Avila: "Christ has no body but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world," then whether we think ourselves worthy or not we are called by name to be in collaboration with God to transform our world.

Knowing that God loves you, feeling it, sensing it, relying upon it, that is not all there is. It is not sufficient that God's love enrich just our lives or ease just our troubles. There is an active component to God's love, our actions. We, each of us, is a unique and active part in opening the eyes of the world to God's love. Will you participate, will you collaborate in the creation of this transformed world? 

Jesus asks Peter at the end of the Gospel of John: "Do you love me?" When Peter responds "yes" Jesus says: "Feed my sheep." "Tend my flock." "Feed my lambs." 

Jesus asks each of us: "Do you love me?" As we respond "yes" know that we love God through our actions, collaborating with God to share His love.

What opportunities will come into your world this week? How will you collaborate with God and bless the world?

Today's Reading: John 13:21-38 

Jesus Foretells His Betrayal
21 After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. 23 One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; 24 Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. 27 After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor. 30 So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.
The New Commandment
31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Jesus Foretells Peter’s Denial

36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Throw away people

I once heard our current world referred to as the "throw away generations." I believe the reference was to the fact that what we create is created not to last but to be used and disposed. Today that is even true with computers, refrigerators, washing machines, TVs, iPhones, and soon I am sure automobiles. We live in a time when it is cheaper and more expedient to purchase a new one than to have something fixed if it breaks. Beyond even that, if it doesn't break we will find the need to get a new one because of new bells and whistles that have been added to the new one.

What I wonder is are we treating people the same way? Are the people we currently know, disposable? Ah sure, there are millions of people in the world, if this one doesn't work I will just find another. Have we given up the art of relationship, of forgiveness because it is easier and less painful to simply walk away? Or are we afraid to be hurt, or have been hurt by another and so we retreat to our computer where we can "make-up" who we are and keep our distance from others to protect feelings.

Any relationship with another human being poses the potential of hurt and rejection, but it also has the potential for warmth, comfort, empathy, companionship and love. Relationship requires two primary qualities that are less and less present in our world. Putting another first before ourselves and forgiveness.

Somehow we need to learn to step out of ourselves, our needs, our wants, our desires, and look at the other -- their needs, their wants, their desires. Relationship is not a one-way street in either direction, the flow of concern and care for another runs back and forth with the ebb and flow of life's circumstances.

Forgiveness is not denial of hurt or wrongdoing. Forgiveness is about freeing ourselves from the chains of hurt, the chains of pain, the chain of anger that lock us into the event or the person who caused them. Without forgiveness we allow the person who harmed us to control our life, our feelings, our attitudes, not only toward them but toward all of the relationships in our life. To be freed from these chains and to be at peace we must offer this forgiveness unconditionally, as a grace with no strings.

Forgiveness is a choice we make.  The ability to forgive comes from the the recondition that we are all flawed and all human. We all have made mistakes and harmed others, and we will again. Look at what you are trying to forgive -- could you have done what was done to you, to another? Are we not all capable of the doing rather than being the victim? How do we know how we would react in the same circumstance? The ability to forgive and the understanding that there but for the grace of God go I are linked.

Who do you need to forgive today to bring peace to your heart? Or will you just walk away?

Today's Reading:  John 13:1-20

Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet
13 Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. 18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But it is to fulfill the scripture, ‘The one who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19 I tell you this now, before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am he. 20 Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.”

Friday, March 28, 2014

Called by Name

One of the fascinating things to me about the story of the Good Shepherd is the fact that the sheep know the shepherd and only come when the shepherd calls, and he calls his sheep by name. When I was living in Ireland I was privileged to live in a community of farmers - dairy, chicken, pig, and sheep farmers to be specific. As the city girl, this was could have presented quite a challenge, but I suppose, for my innate curiosity about how things work, how people work, and how things and people work together.

I had an occasion to spend a day with one of my parishioners, Ronan, who was a sheep farmer. It was lambing season and the farm and fields were abuzz with activity. Ronan had plenty of help on the farm and I sat on the fence watching as Ronan and his workers handled the sheep. As I was sitting there, the story of the Good Shepherd came into my mind. I don't think until that point in time I had ever really connected the words of the story with the actions of the shepherd. As I watched I was fascinated by the fact that, although there were 5 or 6 workers in the field with Ronan and the sheep, the sheep followed Ronan wherever he walked. And, he knew them.  To this day I don't know if he had named each of them, but what I do know is that he knew them. Where I just saw a heard of sheep, they all looked alike to me, not to Ronan. He knew the sheep, each one he picked out to show me he told me about the history, the breeding, the particular medical issues, the identifying markings, and on and on. He would bring a lamb for me to see and could tell me which of the ewe's in the field was its mother. I came to the conclusion that he might as well have named them all because he knew them all.

What does this mean then, how does it apply in terms of the story and our relationship with Jesus?  I believe most of the time we hear and hear again these stories and they pass over us like water over a fall. What was he trying to tell us? What if, as in our baptismal liturgy, we are "sealed by the Holy Spirit, and marked as Christ's own forever?" What if we are "called by name?" Does it matter that you are called by name?

We can all remember times as children when we heard our name called and how by the tone and the name used we knew we were or were not in trouble. We can acknowledge how important it is to us that our name is spelled and pronounced correctly, whether we are willing to admit it or not. It touches a special place inside of us when we are called by name. It is a unique calling, it is only for us, no other is involved, just the caller and the one called, it is special and we are special because of it!

This is how Jesus speaks to you and to me! By name, uniquely and in love.

Pray your name today, what do you hear?

Today's Reading: John 12: 27-50

Jesus Speaks about His Death
27 “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34 The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”
The Unbelief of the People
After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them. 37 Although he had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah:
“Lord, who has believed our message,
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
39 And so they could not believe, because Isaiah also said, 40  “He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their hearts, so that they might not look with their eyes,
    and understand with their heart and turn—and I would heal them.”
41 Isaiah said this because he saw his glory and spoke about him. 42 Nevertheless many, even of the authorities, believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God.
Summary of Jesus’ Teaching

44 Then Jesus cried aloud: “Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. 46 I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness. 47 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. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my word has a judge; on the last day the word that I have spoken will serve as judge, 49 for I have not spoken on my own, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I speak, therefore, I speak just as the Father has told me.”

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Change Challenge

We live in a world that changes constantly and yet as human beings most of us (some more than others) are resistant to change. We do like our comfort zones even if they are not good for us in one way or another (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually).

It is an interesting thing though, the change that God's requests of us. It is not to be confused with change for change's sake, or seasonal change, or time change, or self-serving change.

I remember many years ago when I was called to serve, part of that call involved moving, not around the corner or even across the country, but across the Atlantic. Mind. The call also involved giving up a tenured job, a house, a way of life, and in some ways my friends (at least in terms of proximity). Looking at the challenge from the outside to many it ranged from insurmountable to stupid.

There is, however, an internal assurance in a call from God. Yes it can be a challenge, the steps can be difficult or make one fearful. There can be times when you wonder what you are doing or why, but during it all there is an underlying knowing that all will be well, God's constant presence is vibrant and reassuring. It is as if you just know you're capable however much you might doubt yourself. And too, it can be painful. I still have friends who don't speak to me much because "I left them!" You can't expect what God requests to be without challenges that take you to the realization of new capabilities. God's requests of us, to me, are part of the mystery, I can't explain them and I don't try, I just know.

These changes, this growth in relationship with Him, these moments of transformation in our lives help us to be Christ's hands and heart in the world. The example I have given you was a big change.  I believe that God requests change of us sometimes in big ways, but also more often in small ways.

The question for today, then: "What is God inviting you to change today?"

Today's Reading: John 12: 1-26

Mary Anoints Jesus
12 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”
The Plot to Kill Lazarus
When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.
Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem
12 The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—
    the King of Israel!”
14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:
“Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion.
Look, your king is coming,
    sitting on a donkey’s colt!”
16 His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. 17 So the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify. 18 It was also because they heard that he had performed this sign that the crowd went to meet him. 19 The Pharisees then said to one another, “You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!”
Some Greeks Wish to See Jesus

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Negative thinking

If we are the vessels through which God's love shines its light, how is that working out for us?

One of the things I think we need to check on about ourselves is how we handle everyday situations and encounters with others - what is our attitude to the events of our daily life. If we were the other, if we were watching how we act what would we think -- easy going, testy, negative, happy, petty. Which attitude would apply to you?

I recently read a story in James Moore's Lenten series. It was about this woman who came into the doctor's office with a "catalog of complaints about her health." The doctor couldn't find anything physically wrong with the woman but became convinced after talking with her that her problem was her negative outlook on life, her bitterness, her resentment, her grudges, her anger,  her self-pity. As the story goes the doctor showed the woman a shelf filled with empty pill bottles. He said to the woman: "I can take one of these bottles and fill it with poison or I can fill it with medicine that will help someone get well." I make the choice.  Looking her straight in the eye he continued: "Each day that God gives us is basically like one of those empty bottles. We can choose to fill it with love and life-affirming thoughts and attitudes that lift us and other people up -- or we can fill it with destructive poisonous thoughts that pull us - and everyone we meet - down. The choice is ours."

Research would show that negative thinking effects our physical well-being. Have you considered that the same negative thinking also impacts our spiritual presence? The more our life is filled with negative thinking the less light shines through us.

The key here is that it is our choice. With what will you fill yourself today?

Today's Reading:  John 11: 45-57

The Plot to Kill Jesus
45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, “What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” 51 He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God. 53 So from that day on they planned to put him to death.
54 Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews, but went from there to a town called Ephraim in the region near the wilderness; and he remained there with the disciples.

55 Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. 56 They were looking for Jesus and were asking one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?” 57 Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where Jesus was should let them know, so that they might arrest him.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What is your purpose?

What is the purpose in your life? This is a question that is asked and a need that is expressed often in our world. Books have been written about finding it, churches have been formed around discovering it.. I wonder, might lack of purpose be the result of living by the clock, driven by schedules and calendars and meetings and activities? Is it driven by cultural demands of responsibility, providing, perfect parenting? Is it the result of self-criticism, self-loathing, feeling unworthy? Or, is it the result of total focus on self ? Is the purpose inside of me, but I can't see it?

Only you can determine why you might feel a lack of purpose in your life. But two questions seem to surround finding an answer to your purpose: what is the purpose for which you were created; and, what is your intention, you plan for carrying out that purpose.

It seems that God created each of us to show himself to the world through us. While we were all created in God's image, how we show God to the world, how we live as the hands and heart of Jesus is unique to each of us.  That being the case, we are not at liberty to dismiss our contribution, or claim we have no purpose, or say we are not good enough, are we?

One of the most fascinating things about giving homilies is the response and reaction of those who hear them. Not everyone hears the same thing, even though you are talking to all of them at the same time. God purposes the words and the thoughts of those homilies uniquely for each set of ears that hear. My study and my life and service informs the homily, but God delivers the message. It can be the only explanation for what happens so often. Someone in the community comes to me and says, "I can't believe you were talking directly to me, today." You and I know that I was not, not really, but God was and that is certainly clear to me.

My point in sharing this story is that if each of us is unique and reflects God in a unique way, then without my intention or your intention to live as Christ's hands and heart in the world a piece of the puzzle, a voice, a moment of transformation for another who would see God's love through us, will be missing. It is that reflection of God's love from each of us that sets in motion transformation. 

How can you uniquely reflect the love of God today?

Today's Reading:  John 11:1-44

The Death of Lazarus

11 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus,[a] “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus[b] was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. 10 But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” 11 After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” 13 Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 Thomas, who was called the Twin,[c] said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Jesus the Resurrection and the Life

17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus[d] had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles[e] away, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[f] Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah,[g] the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

Jesus Weeps

28 When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Jesus Raises Lazarus to Life

38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Monday, March 24, 2014

Participating in Relationship

We are connected to God, to the Trinity, because we believe, because we are in relationship. By its very definition the word connected is part of the definition of relationship. Like the electrical cord that plugs into the wall and into your computer, the connection has two ends. We are connected to God and God to us. 

To maintain a relationship its takes the two to be involved in it. God is present with us at all times, how then do we create and participate in our part of the relationship. Jesus took on human form to show us how to be in relationship with God. How to be His hands and heart in the world. How to serve. 

Our introduction into participation,says it well:

"We participate in the love of God not only through prayer and worship, the sacraments and the Eucharist, but also in the ordinary, everyday acts of love that populate our lives. We can harness it with a smile. We can embody it with a kind gesture. We can perfect it with an orientation toward the world that asks (not what is in it for me, but rather) as Jesus did, “How can I serve?"

Today's Reading: John 10:21-42

21 Others were saying, “These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
Jesus Is Rejected by the Jews
22 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.”
31 The Jews took up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.” 34 Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If those to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’—and the scripture cannot be annulled— 36 can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” 39 Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands.

40 He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. 41 Many came to him, and they were saying, “John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42 And many believed in him there.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Who will you meet at the well?

Several days ago we read in the 4th Chapter of John about the Samaritan woman at the well and her encounter with Jesus. She was obviously a Samaritan and Jesus was a Jew. There was no intentional contact between these two peoples and at certain times in history the two groups were sworn enemies.

And yet, Jesus sat with this woman, asked to drink from her vessel, did not judge her past or present life circumstance, and offered her himself. We might say, well of course he did, Jesus is the Son of God I would expect that he would do that. This is true, however, Jesus was a human being, he had been raised with all of the understandings, all of the laws, all of the prejudices of his people. He has been taught to respect, to fear, to stay away, to distrust, to eat/drink/fellowship only with his own.

And yet, he sat with and opened his heart to this woman. What might be the connection for us, in this 21st century? How would we apply this lesson?

I remember when I was in seminary in Ireland, every day I got off the bus there was a "begging individual" on the steps right in front of me. Like most seminarians I had little money to offer. Every day I would walk by this person, feel terrible because I hadn't done anything and ask God what He wanted me to do.  (It was probably more like "well what do you expect me to do?", but I digress.) One day several weeks later, I heard clearly an answer to my question. "Remember the Samaritan woman."So, the next day when I got off the bus, (a little nervous and somewhat doubtful of the connection) I sat down next to this woman and offered her what I had, my time and attention. We talked for a few moments, inconsequential conversation so I thought. I had to leave to get to class and as I was going the woman said to me: "Thank you for sitting with me, for talking to me, for looking at me. I can't tell you how many people won't ever look at me or how much your time has meant to me."

Who might be the Samaritan in your life? In posing this question you can certainly answer, the homeless, the hungry, the stranger I let in front of me in line, my neighbor next door who has trouble getting to her mailbox. These are the easy ones.

Let's think again. This time look into your own life. Who is it that you know who is a stranger, or who is estranged? Who is your Samaritan and how can you like Jesus, give to that person?

Today's Reading:  John 10: 1-20
Jesus the Good Shepherd
10 “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”

19 Again the Jews were divided because of these words. 20 Many of them were saying, “He has a demon and is out of his mind. Why listen to him?”