Sunday, April 13, 2014

Why Holy Week?

Today is Palm/Passion Sunday. It is called Palm/Passion Sunday because its begins with the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and ends with the story of his crucifixion and death.  The liturgy begins with "Alleluia, Hosanna in the Highest!" and ends with "Crucify Him." During this week we walk with Jesus during the last week of his life on earth. It is a difficult week, to say the least, because we are asked to walk the way of the cross, to share in the suffering, betrayal, humiliation, pain, and ultimate death of Jesus.

My observation would be, however, for the majority of Christians this week is not the focal point of our story but rather just another week in the year. I continue to wonder why this week has lost its significance in our life.

Do we ignore Holy Week
because we know the end of the story and in that way can avoid the pain of the cross?
because we don't have time?
because our culture makes no time for it?
because we refuse to acknowledge Jesus' pain?
because we don't have to -- the story will end the same way whether we do or not?
because we have enough pain and disappointment in our lives, we don't need more?

We cannot live totally in Hosannas or totally in Crucify Him. It is not all resurrection or all crucifixion. There is not one without the other, but rather there needs to be balance. We tend to jump from Palm Sunday and the triumphal entry into Jerusalem to Easter Sunday and the resurrection. But that is not what happened to Jesus and that is not the way our lives work.

We do not live in nirvana, a life of no pain. We live somewhere in between Hosanna and Crucify Him. It seems to me that if we don't come to grips and reality with what Jesus went through then we will spend our lives giving ourselves credit for all of the triumphal happenings in our lives and blaming God every time we suffer, or are betrayed, or humiliated, or feel pain.

By living this week in the way of the cross we can begin to understand how God does not abandon us in times of trouble,  God does not cause things to happen or stop things from happening but rather how God is present with us in our lives every minute of every day whatever is going on.

By living this week in the way of the cross in trust and hope, can we magnify the experience of God's presence in our lives? There is no risk for us as there was for the disciples. We have the answer, we know Easter will come, we have little to lose and much to gain!

Today's Reading: John 16

16 “I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me. But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them.
The Work of the Spirit
“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11 about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.
12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
Sorrow Will Turn into Joy
16 “A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me.” 17 Then some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying to us, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” 18 They said, “What does he mean by this ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” 19 Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Are you discussing among yourselves what I meant when I said, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’? 20 Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. 22 So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 23 On that day you will ask nothing of me. Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.
Peace for the Disciples
25 “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but will tell you plainly of the Father. 26 On that day you will ask in my name. I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father.”

29 His disciples said, “Yes, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure of speech! 30 Now we know that you know all things, and do not need to have anyone question you; by this we believe that you came from God.” 31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. 33 I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Job or Vocation?

The idea of vocation is central to the Christian belief that God has created each person with gifts and talents oriented toward specific purposes and a way of life. In the broadest sense "Love is the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being". In the broader sense, vocation includes the use of one's gifts in their profession, family life, church and civic commitments for the sake of the greater common good.

A job on the other hand is a paid position of regular employment.

Synonyms for job are occupation, profession, trade, position, career, work, line of work, livelihood, post, situation, appointment, craft. It is interesting that no where in these synonyms for job appears the word vocation.

The question is who are you, what is your identity?

It seems to me that we often confuse who we are as created in God's image with what we do for a living, our job.

So for example if your job is a CPA or a homemaker that is not who you are that is not your identity, that is what you do to earn a living, or what you do to keep a household together.

The danger for us is when we confuse what we do with who we are.

We are created in the image of God. In that creation we are given gifts to identify and use to share God's love with all we meet. Our belief that we are God's creation, our assurance we are loved unconditionally informs our actions and our practice in what we do and how we are with others.

This belief and assurance define us. If we confuse our identify with our job then where are we if we lose our job, hate our job, are waiting for another job, are looking to get back to the job we had.

Our identity, our vocation, who we are is with us every minute of every day. We are always able to be ourselves, to share the love of God with others, to rest in that assurance of being unconditionally loved. Our identity, our life does not go on hold if we are looking for a job, waiting for an answer about a job, having trouble finding a job. Our job does not define us nor does it change our identity or God's love for us.

Don't miss out on your life waiting for a job or hating the one you have. "Don’t miss the moment. The invitation for living life is in the present moment where God is going to be most present to you and with you, within you and around you, is now. And if there is to be a tomorrow, you’re going to need today to prepare you for tomorrow. Don’t cut in line."

Today's Reading: John 15: 1-27

Jesus the True Vine
15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed[ak] by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
The World’s Hatred
18 “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘Servants are not greater than their master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. 21 But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 It was to fulfill the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause.’
26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27 You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Assuming the Worst?

What is it about us as human beings that we always look or assume the worst about others and even about ourselves.

If we can't find something, or something is missing, we didn't misplace it, our children or our co-worker  or the stranger we saw walking around yesterday must have taken it.

It always seems to be that someone else did it, stole it, misplaced it, moved it, lost it, broke it . . . .Why do we jump there to blame others? Why not first, before we assume "the other" did it, stop and think about what is missing, or misplaced, or moved, or broken and where we saw, used,  or left it last.

Interestingly it works in reverse as well. When we think about our daily life, the good things we do for others and the bad things we do, we seem to assume that most of our day is spent doing bad things - or said another way - doing things that separate us from God (sin). (Be clear I am not talking about mistakes here. My father used to say don't worry about making mistakes, the only people who cab make mistakes are the people who are doing something.) In terms of bad things, things that separate us from God, these acts are the intentional acts -- shunning another, spreading false information about another, lying to protect yourself, cheating, stealing, etc.

Today's challenge is to make a list at the end of the day with two columns. In one column list your sins, those intentional acts you have done during the day to harm another or yourself, those acts that separate your from God and in the other column write down the good things you have done for others  (the person you let go in front of you, the co-worker you helped, the smile you gave,, the kind words you spoke, when you stood up for another) and for yourself.  I venture you will find that the good list is much longer than the bad list.

All of which is to say, recognize the positive parts of you, acknowledge your ability and desire to love God and show that love to others, give yourself some credit rather than blame or recrimination. See the light of God within you, as you so ably see it in others.

Today's Reading:  John 14: 1-31

Jesus the Way to the Father
14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
The Promise of the Holy Spirit
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
18 “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us be on our way.