Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Cup

The Cup
Originally uploaded by auntjojo

Yesterday the table. Today the cup.

The cup represents so many different things. "Take this cup from me," Jesus says. Even Jesus feeling a need for his suffering to be relieved. And even Jesus hearing a "No. There is another way" answer to his prayer. How does the saying go? God always answers prayers, just not the way we like. I have always hated that saying, but today I am reminded that Jesus understands. He felt the same way in Gethsemane.

The cup of the new covenant. "A new command I give you," says Jesus, "to love one another." It doesn't seem like such a new commandment to me. The command to love seems to have been there all along. What does it mean that the covenant was new? Was it new and improved? Or brand new out of nothing? It seems to be that the concept of a new covenant was for our benefit. It wasn't really new to God. Yet God saw how entangled our understanding of the Old Covenant had become with our sinfulness and the sinful structures of our world. And God decided to untangle it. A new covenant. Sometimes I wish God would untangle us again.

A shared cup. Jesus passes the cup to his disciples, despite their coming betrayal. A cup of grace and mercy. If only our communion cups were full of the same grace. We know just as well as Jesus that people are flawed, that we sin and hurt one another. Can we extend the same grace?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dining with the Enemy

Table for Two
Originally uploaded by auntjojo

What a confusing few days! Jesus parades into Jerusalem, the crowds calling him the next king. He storms into the temple courtyard and begins turning over the tables. So, Jesus is finally showing his power! Finally claiming his authority. Finally leading!

Um... Jesus... what are you doing down there washing my feet? What do you mean you are going to suffer? What is all this talk about death? What do you mean one of us is going to betray you?

Sitting around the dinner table, Jesus reveals that one of the disciples will betray him. I find the response rather interesting. Like a group of school children, Peter leans over to John and whispers, "You ask him." And John leans over to Jesus and whispers, "Tell us who it is." I suppose they were so trusting of one another that they could hardly believe one of their own would betray Jesus. What I don't understand is why they just let it happen. Jesus shows everyone it is Judas. Hands a piece of bread right to him (John 13.26). Why didn't the disciples grab him at that moment? Did they not believe Jesus?

Betrayal within the community of faith is so hard to deal with. We want to believe the best in each other. We want to trust one another. And of course, we must strive for that. But we cannot sit silently when sin is revealed. We cannot live in denial. In particular, I think of the incidents of domestic violence and child abuse where our desire to have faith in one another leads us to ignore the proof that something is going wrong here.

But one must also ask what happened with Judas. Why did he, one of the twelve, betray Jesus? Was it foreordained? Did Jesus know every day of their journey together that Judas would hand him over to his death? Why would Jesus choose such a disciple? It causes me to wonder if I would ever betray Jesus like that. But more often, it reminds me of God's grace. God chooses even the sinners among us (which, really, is everyone) to be God's disciples. Perhaps God knows that acts of betrayal are in our future, but God allows for freewill, the possibility of repentance, the hope of forgiveness. God sees the image of God in each one of us, all of God's creation, and loves us immensely. So much so that God clings in relationship to us even when we betray. What amazing grace!

Monday, March 29, 2010

All the Leaves Are Brown...

Discarded Leaves
Originally uploaded by auntjojo

I am sorry for missing Saturday's post. Unfortunately I was up quite late writing a Palm Sunday Sermon... I asked whether the worship on Palm Sunday was real worship since all the crowd gathered would scatter and abandon Jesus within the week. I challenged us to consider if we would scatter as well, or would we be willing to follow Jesus to Jerusalem? Would be willing to walk into centers of power and speak truth? Would we be willing to go with Jesus into the temple courtyard and overturn the tables? Are we willing to critique the sins within our own religious institutions? And are we willing to walk with Jesus to the cross, giving up our privilege and our place in the system no matter what the consequences?

While this is not a Palm leaf, it reminds me of what it might have been like the morning after Palm Sunday. Probably a few jackets left behind, lying on the ground, with a hoof print or two on them. Leaves and branches scattered around left to wither and die. And over the next few days the faith of the people would also begin to wither. They would lose their connection to the true vine and begin to turn brown and brittle. Did such lack of faith need to happen? Is there any connection to Jesus' words that "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." (John 12:24) Our we willing to let our false worship die so that we might come to worship the true God?

Friday, March 26, 2010

You, too?

You, too?
Originally uploaded by auntjojo

So... when you are wandering around your house at 11:00 pm looking for a picture, you sometimes have to get a little creative. I knew what I wanted to write about, but how to find a picture to express it?

I have been thinking a lot about the praise frenzy taking place on Palm Sunday and I have wondered if I would have ever joined in. As you may notice from my reflections, I tend to be more of a Good Friday girl. Lent fits my reflective, pensive, sometimes downright depressing self. I tend look at the Palm Sunday people and say, "Well, they won't last... Just wait until the hard stuff comes along." And in many ways I would be right. Those who celebrated Jesus were gone by the end of the week. But does that mean God thought any less of their worship?

The truth is, Jesus orchestrated Palm Sunday. It was a time for worship. Worship was the appropriate response and when the Pharisee's tried to reign it in and quiet everybody down, Jesus told them to back off. You can try to stop it, but if you do so, the rocks will just start crying out!

Yes, a rock concert. U2. A weak connection. I know. But...
I was on Soldier Field for the U2 concert last year. I tried to scream and shout and let myself get caught up in the frenzy and excitement, but I couldn't. Okay, while a few friends might disagree with me, I am under no illusions that Bono is Jesus. But my fear of celebrating and praising has little to do with that. It is about a fear of losing control, of looking silly, of being wrong. It keeps me from expressing true joy or real love or even deep sorrow or raging anger.

All this to say... while the disciples on Palm Sunday would eventually fall away, in the moment, at that moment, when Jesus chose to reveal himself as the anointed one, the Messiah, the king, they got it right. The frenzied waving of branches. The shouting and chanting. The parade into Jerusalem. These were all appropriate responses in the presence of Christ. My my faith grow in such a way that I allow myself to enter into similar moments of pure worship, forgetful of myself and focusing only on God.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Blowing in the Wind

Blowing in the Wind
Originally uploaded by auntjojo

The wind was howling today, rocking my car from side to side as I stopped at a light, whipping the tree branches around the little chapel at Garrett.

I wonder if the wind was blowing on Palm Sunday? There is no mention of it, but for some reason I think perhaps it was. There is this sense that something different is happening. God is moving in mysterious ways. The energy is so palpable that the rocks might start praising God.

There is some recent research on Christ's triumphal entry that suggests that while Jesus was riding in on his little donkey through the backdoor, Pilate was parading in on a great warhorse through the front gate of Jerusalem. It seems in the movies that when the little guy goes up against the big guy, the wind seems to start blowing announcing a force beyond our understanding. I imagine the wind moving through the trees, perhaps even howling through the gates of the city letting us know that the Holy Spirit was present and that God was preparing a mighty work on that day. God was doing something we couldn't quite see and didn't quite understand, but we recognized the significance nonetheless.

Where might the wind be howling these days? Where might God be moving? Where might Jesus be riding in the backdoor challenging the might of oppressive structures and powerful enemies? And will I rejoice at its coming?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Was it All A Mistake?

With Boughs in Hand
Originally uploaded by auntjojo

"The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With bough in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar." (Psalm 118:27)

Were the people wrong in the celebration of Jesus on Palm Sunday? Were they all misguided? Did their lack of faith on Good Friday mean they didn't truly believe on Palm Sunday? Are we allowed to praise God even when our faith is not exactly pure? Can we worship on Sunday even though we often don't make it faithfully all the way to Friday?

I have been reading ecclesiology (the study of the church) lately in preparation for a course I'm teaching at Garrett. This week we'll be discussing the marks of the church: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. The "holiness" of the church always gets me. Clearly the church has not lived up to its reputation for holiness. And yet somehow we are still holy. The holiness of the church, much like the righteousness of each individual, is not grounded in our own ability. Rather, the church is holy because God is present. And God is present even when sin is present... as was evidenced by Christ's walk to Jerusalem.

The Palm Sunday parade was a moment of pure worship. In Luke 19, Jesus says that if the crowd had remained silent the rocks would have cried out. Jesus was revealing who he was as God's own son bringing the kingdom. And worship was the proper response. And in that moment of worship, perhaps the crowd was transformed a bit. Coming into contact with the kingdom can do that to a person. May our worship on Sunday mornings, though not perfect, be moments when we glimpse the kingdom, when we recognize the holiness of God in our midst, and when we are transformed a little. So that we might bring a bit of the holiness with us into the world.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Thorny Path

A Thorny Path
Originally uploaded by auntjojo

In another few months, this will be a beautiful rose lined walkway... but for now it is a walkway lined with thorns. Bushes and branches covered with inch long thorns that grab at you if you wander too close to the edge. That cut and scrape and leave a mark on your skin.

The road into Jerusalem seemed to be lined with Palm branches as Jesus arrived, but Jesus knew that what he was really walking into. Within days a crown of thorns would be shoved on his head. Not quite the crown that was anticipated on Palm Sunday. The crowd that once praised him was nowhere to be found. He was left alone to face his accusers. Abandoned. Forsaken.

I don't really want to follow down this path. I want to wait until the roses bloom. I want to wait for the beauty to come. The sweet fragrance. The stunning colors. Yet, as Jesus taught us, sometimes we must walk a thorny path in order to reach God's glory. Will I have the courage to follow?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Enter the Gate

Open the Gate
Originally uploaded by auntjojo

"Open for me the gate of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter." (Psalm 118:19-20).

Seeing as this particular gate leads into my backyard, it is definitely not a gate of righteousness. I mean, I might be somewhat righteous. It depends on who you are comparing me to. And I am certainly a bit self-righteous at times. I'm an oldest child. What can you expect? But deep in my core, I know that I am not really righteous. I know my own sinful thoughts and actions. This is not the gate for me. I can't enter. Only the righteous can enter.

But, Lord, if you open the gate, I will enter. I will enter and give thanks. I will enter not because I am righteous, but because you are. And in coming to earth in the form of a human being, you have made it possible for this flesh to take on righteousness. Not our own, but your righteousness dwelling within this body, the Holy Spirit uniting us with the Triune God.

I will enter and give thanks.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Seeking Suffering

The Crucified One
Originally uploaded by auntjojo

The closer we get to Good Friday, the more I am confronted with the cost of discipleship. And the grace of God.
Paul's faith always challenges me. In Philippians 3:4-14, he talks of all the things in this world that give him power and prestige... and his willingness to give them all up for the sake of Christ. Not just for the sake of Christ, but so that he might share in Christ's sufferings.
As with all texts about suffering, context is important. Paul is righting from a position of power. He is not one of the least of these seeking to give up even more. The least already share in Christ's sufferings. Paul is talking about willingly setting aside privilege.
Ugh... I am so invested in trying to survive in this life. I am worried about finding a permanent job, health insurance, retirement. Yes, all these things are important, but what am I... and we as a society... willing to compromise in order to achieve it. We seem to be willing to compromise quite a bit... allowing there to be a strata of society who are living below the poverty line and entire countries where few people have enough resources to thrive in life.
Perhaps we are back to those traditional practices of Lent... what are we willing to give up for God? And for those God loves?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Smelly Feet???

Originally uploaded by auntjojo

The gospel text tells the story of Mary anointing the feet of Jesus as an act of worship that forshadowed his coming death.
Mary takes one of the most expensive items in her house and pours it out on Jesus' feet. Not on his head. Not on his hands. Was it a way of washing his feet? A symbolic baptism?
I am struggling with how to express what i am thinking about all this. Mary makes sacred the least sacred part of Jesus. She makes sacred that very human part of Jesus, the feet that are needed to walk in the world when one gives up their divine omnipresence. She makes sacred something so practical. Feet, for the most part, don't do anything meaningful or artistic. They bear our way. They transport us. Now, a soccer player might agree with that last statement... but still.
Can we recognize the sacred in the very ordinary parts of our lives? Can we understand that in Christ God stepped into our very ordinary way of being? And in doing so gave it a sacred qualtiy?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Stuck in the Kitchen... Again

Stuck in the Kitchen
Originally uploaded by auntjojo

The gospel text for this week focuses on Mary's anointing of Jesus with expensive perfume in John 12:1-8. It is a beautiful story of Mary's sacrificial worship of Jesus pointing towards his coming death.

I, however, was struck today by vs.2 where Martha is again in the kitchen serving the meal. Many of us know the story of Mary and Martha from Luke 10 where Martha is rebuked for carrying about trivial matters like cooking and cleaning while Mary is praised for stopping all that she is doing to kneel at Jesus feet. The John text for today comes later in the story. This same Martha, rebuked for her triviality, has since been one of the only ones to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah (John 11), a statement of faith in the face of the death of her brother, Lazarus.

I am of two minds about this text. I am frustrated that Martha is still in the kitchen serving while Lazarus lounges at the table with Jesus. But, I am also encouraged. A relationship with Jesus does not always mean an otherworldly spirituality. It can manifest itself in the day to day chores of our lives. While Mary is pouring out expensive perfume, Martha is modeling what it means to serve. Both worship and service are integral to the kingdom.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sowing Seeds in Sorrow

Seeds to Sow
Originally uploaded by auntjojo

The Psalm for this week is Psalm 126 ends with the following words of encouragement... "Those who go out weeping carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy carrying sheaves." What I love about these words is the grace allowed to us when we are in the midst of sorrow and struggles. We do not need strong oak trees of faith at these times. Rather, we simply need to carry with us the small seeds of faith, the tiniest glimmer of hope. "Forget Me Nots" seem like such an appropriate seed to imagine carrying around, for our hope is grounded in our memory of what God has done for us, of God's love for us through the work of Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Now, we are not to simply cling to these seeds or stuff them in our pockets. Rather, we are to sow them, to offer what little hope we have to the world around us. Hope is not something to hoard and grasp. Rather, in sharing it, it multiplies and grows.
As Christ drew near to Jerusalem, the disciples lost much of their faith, but they held on to a glimmer, a small seed. And that small seed was enough to sustain them through the dark days ahead. And more importantly, that seed was enough to give them eyes to see the miraculous work of the resurrection.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

God Drew Out the Horses

God Drew Out the Horses
Originally uploaded by auntjojo

The passage from Isaiah (43:16-21) recalls the story of the Exodus. God makes a way and draws out the horses and the chariots pursuing the Israelites as they flee from the Egyptians.

Perhaps this isn't the most encouraging picture. The horses did not survive God's great deliverance of Israel. And today I need the message of God's deliverance. I am the new interim pastor of a church that has been through a rough time. We need to know that God can make a way where there seems to be no other way. I suppose Lent is the greatest example of God making a way where there is no other way. Not through the desert or through the sea. God made a way through death itself.

Verse 19 is a bit simplistic... "Forget the former things. Do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing. Now it springs up. Do you not see it?" And yet... that is what I need right now. I need to see whatever new thing God is doing. I need to have the eyes to see it springing up in our midst. I trust that it is there because we have a God who does new things, who makes new ways, who forms us into new creations.

Monday, March 15, 2010

My Way

Make Way
Originally uploaded by auntjojo

The Old Testament text for this week is Isaiah 43:16-21. It begins with "This is what the Lord says, the Lord how made a path through the sea, a path through the mighty waters..." Verse 19 speaks of a path in the desert and streams in a dry land. God as the way maker, the path layer, the forger, the trailblazer.

It is a beautiful image, the God who makes a way when there is no other way. The God of infinite possibilities. The God who directs and guides. The God who rescues.

Yet, my mind did not go there today. Instead, as I drove down the road, along the path that we have created next to a river winding through Skokie, Illinois, I am reminded of how we have abused this image of God as the way maker. Perhaps I am thinking of Soong Chan Rah's sermon at our church yesterday where he pointed out how American cars all seem to have names tied to action and adventure like the Explorer and the Trailblazer. I am also thinking of my short year as a geotechnical engineer where I would go out into the beautiful rolling hills in Northern California and test the soil so that some developer could flatten it all to make a cookie cutter housing development.

As children of God, created in God's image, we too are to be way makers. We are to make ways of justice, peace, and love in this world. We are to lay the streets and foundations of the kingdom of God. Instead, we have made a way where there was no way... or, more to the point, we have made ways on top of ways that already existed. Instead of following the natural pathways of streams and valleys, we cut through rock and redirect currents believing that we should be able to go straight regardless of what nature is telling us. Instead of recognizing the paths of the people who lived on the soil of the United States before we arrived, we paved over them and laid railroad tracks through them, believing that ours were the only true paths. We have become a nation of competitors who make their own paths walking over others to get to the top, relying on the labor of those we have rendered invisible, denying the pathways of those of a different color, language, or gender.

Forgive the tirade, but those are the thoughts that went through my mind as a sat at the stop light and took this picture. The image of God as the path layer, the way maker, is a beautiful one, but our interpretation of that image has, at times, been anything but beautiful. How can we become way makers who reflect the kingdom?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Photoshopped Creation?

New Creation
Originally uploaded by auntjojo

I took my picture early today. The new shoots of crocuses, daffodils, and tulips sprouting up in the rain along the side of the house. Of course, when I finally looked at them this evening, I realized they were all blurry. All of them. Seriously. So, I played around with one of the images on iPhoto. And voila, a new creation.

The epistle lesson for this week tells us we are new creations (2 Corin. 5.17) and I have always struggled with what that means. I certainly don't feel like much of a new creation these days. I am definitely an aging creation with more grey hairs and wrinkle appearing everyday. I am certainly didn't lose all my insecurities and inadequacies when I came to faith. I am still a clay jar full of cracks and fissures. Thankfully Paul tells us a few verses earlier that these clay jars can hold the treasure of God's glory (2 Corin. 4.7). So how are we new creations?

I wonder if our newness isn't somehow related to the systems and structures I wrote about yesterday? The passage comes in the midst of Paul's discussion of reconciliation and the fact that in Christ we no longer see people from a human point of view. Maybe the newness has something to do with seeing ourselves and others in a new way, no longer seeing each other through web of stereotypes and oppressive cultural histories that we are all a part of. Perhaps we are to recognize that we are new creations because we are to challenge these systems as agents of reconciliation and are to allow others to be defined as brothers and sisters in Christ. We are to be something new in this world, kingdom people, ambassadors for Christ. We are to be people filled with the new life of the Spirit. In Christ we are a new creation. The old has gone. The new has come!

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Cog in A Machine?

A Cog in A Machine?
Originally uploaded by auntjojo

Earlier this week I was reading through some posts on The Text this Week's facebook page and one of the pastors mentioned they were going to preach on the systems issues that were central to the prodigal son story in Luke 15. Throughout the week I've been mulling this over. We come down so hard on both the younger brother who squanders his inheritance and the older brother who resents his brother's return. Both, however, were stuck in unfair systems of inheritance which placed all the responsibility for the continuation of the family business in the hand of the older brother. He was stuck to the land which he would inherit and the responsibility of running it all his life. The younger son had a freedom he envied! And yet the younger son would be left in some ways to fend for himself with only a small inheritance and no land to provide any security. He would always be at the mercy of his older brother for protection. Both were stuck. Both wanted to escape. But as in most cases where their are unfair structures in place, rather than trying to change the system, they simply blamed one another.
In this interpretation of the parable, it is difficult to see God in the role of the Father who perpetuates an unjust system. Rather, the Father becomes the system itself that welcomes back with open arms after we have tried to make it on our own.
But then, where is God in the midst of unfair systems and structures? It is difficult to find a clear answer in this parable. And it is often difficult to find God when you are stuck in the midst of structures that overtime seem to take on a life of their own. However, Jesus, too, was stuck in just such a system. One that would eventually lead him to his death. And yet Jesus' death did not signal the victory of the system, rather it signified the resurrection of an entirely new way of being apart from any sinful structure. A way of life that was full of life and glory.

The Shepherd

The Shepherd
Originally uploaded by auntjojo

Sorry about missing last night! I took the picture during a break in the theology class I teach and never got to posting it last night.

The photo itself is a mixing of metaphors... or at least parables. The gospel text for this week is the story of the prodigal and his brother from Luke 15:11-32. In the text, a young man walks away from his family, squanders his inheritance in decadent living, and then tries to put his life back together. Eventually he comes, on his knees, fully repentant, back to his father. The father welcomes him with open arms.

The statue represents the story of the lost sheep. When a sheep goes wandering off, loses its way, Jesus, the great shepherd, searches tirelessly for the little sheep. And eventually carries the sheep back into the fold.

So which is it? When we stray from God, does God leave us to the consequences of our decisions? Or does God search for us tirelessly until God can carry us back home? I think perhaps it is a bit of both. We can be a bit like sheep at times, wandering in the world, following after the next green patch of grass, moving step by step further away from God until we have lost our way. But we can also be like the prodigal, who makes an intentional choice to walk in the other direction and turn his back on all he has learned from his family. In each case, God desperately wants us back. But God is a good parent and knows that some times we have to want to come back as well.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My Hiding Place

My Hiding Place
Originally uploaded by auntjojo

"You are my hiding place; and you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance," says the psalmist (32:7).
I am not sure this spot would make that great of a hiding place. Sure, you could burrow deep in the grass, but this particular grass is sharp and the ground is wet. To crawl in there would leave you cut and covered in mud.
Is it all right if I suggest that sometimes I feel the same way when I try to rely on God as my hiding place? On the outside I often feel a bit bruised and battered. In fact, trouble still seems to find me on a regular basis. Yet within me is a place that cannot be touched. A place where God is present, where my heart and mind can be protected, where the image of God within me is preserved. Perhaps the Psalmist had it a bit mixed up. Perhaps God is not our hiding place. Perhaps we are God's hiding place. Perhaps God is dwelling deep within us. Of course, if God is dwelling within us, that is not something to hide, is it. Rather, it is a light that is to shine on the whole world. Hidden in the bright light of God's glory. It would be just like God to do something like that.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

I Kept Silent

I Kept Silent
Originally uploaded by auntjojo

There are various kinds of silence associated with Lent. There is the silence of prayer and meditation. There is the silence that is part of contemplation and reflection on the depth of Christ's suffering that is so much a part of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. There is the silence of God when Jesus prayed in the garden and died on the cross. And the seeming silence of God between Good Friday and Easter. There is the silence of the crowds who watched the injustice taking place against Jesus. The silence of the disciples who denied him. The silence of Judas who failed to confess his sin.

I think of the weight Judas must have carried after he had betrayed his friend, a weight that would eventually drive him to take his own life. This is the silence that the Psalm seems to address this week.

Psalm 32:3-5 says, "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the Lord' -- and you forgave the guilt of my sin."

God does not want us to remain silent and to carry such a heavy burden. He does not want us to suffer Judas' fate. Lent is a time for silence, but it is also a time to speak out, to acknowledge our sins, and to receive the forgiveness of the Lord.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Unleavened Bread?

Unleavened Bread?
Originally uploaded by auntjojo

Unleavened bread? I thought pita was unleavened, but no... there is yeast in it. Still, today it will represent unleavened bread.
Before I reflect, I should apologize for yesterday. It was a very long week and after preaching and leading the service on Sunday morning, I needed to take the rest of the day off. A sabbath of sorts... There is a possibility that this will be regular practice. We'll see.

But for now, we celebrate with the Egyptians in Joshua 5:9-12. They've finally entered the promised land. They've celebrated the passover once again. Remembering where they came from. And they are finally through with manna. They get to eat the produce of the land, unleavened bread and roasted grain. I need to ponder why this text in the midst of Lent. A celebration of God's deliverance. It seems more of an Easter text to me. It reminds us in the midst of Lent that Jesus is the bread of life. That God does deliver. That Lent is a movement through suffering to celebration.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

She Sells Seashells

Originally uploaded by auntjojo

I doubt the Israelites had time to collect seashells as they passed through the Red Sea... (okay, for all you scholars, the Reed Sea... and I know, not really a sea). But the passage in Corinthians for this day (10:1-13) recounts the story of Israel's escape from Egypt, the passing through the Red Sea, eating manna in the wilderness, and drinking water from a rock. And reminds us that these are our ancestors. And that we have not strayed far from the family tree. Though, like Israel, we may have strayed far from God. Though God fed them and led them and cared for them, the Israelites disobeyed God and few of them ever made it out of the wilderness.

Paul's point is not to judge the story of the Israelites. Rather, it is to remind us that even though we might be chosen by God, we are always prone to temptation. We should never grow overconfident in our own righteousness. Rather, we must always check ourselves. The Corinthians had grown over confident. They thought they had been specially chosen by God and that had given them license to do whatever they wanted. Paul reminds us that even when we are at our most confident spiritually, we need to check ourselves.

Friday, March 05, 2010

If a Tower falls in Siloam...

A Tower
Originally uploaded by auntjojo

The gospel text for this week (Luke 13:1-9) begins with the crowd asking Jesus about those who suffered under Pontius Pilate. They seemed to wonder if those who had suffered were more guilty than others. It is not surprising that Jesus' response is strong and to the point. Jesus is aware that he, too, will soon suffer and that some may interpret his suffering as proof of his guilt. Jesus' response encompasses not only those who suffer at the hands of corrupt officials, but those who suffer in accidents and disasters as well. He speaks of 18 who died when a tower fell on them. Were they guilty of something? Of course not! A reminder for all those who are looking on the earthquakes and other disasters taking place in the world and seeing them as signs of God's absence. No... Jesus is clear and direct in this passage. Suffering is not a sign of sin. While it may be a consequence of sin, there are many reasons why a person might suffer. Suffering seems to be at the heart of the human experience, an experience that Christ is about to embrace wholeheartedly, even unto his death.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Watching by Night

Watching by Night
Originally uploaded by auntjojo

The psalm for the week continues, "On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wing." (Ps. 63:6-7)

Night comes in many forms. Whether it is simply darkness or the dark night of the soul. In many ways, Lent seems like the watches of the night in Christ's story. It is the growing darkness before the dawn. And the disciples, though they cared for Jesus, could not keep watch by night. They fell asleep in the garden of Gethsemane, unable to stay awake when Jesus asked them to. The Psalmist speaks of watching for God in the midst of our suffering knowing that we are sheltered under "the shadow of your wing." But Gethsemane reminds us that we are to also keep watch for others, to have eyes open and awake to the suffering of God's children in the world. Will I keep watch for Haiti? For Chile? For my own city? For those in pain in my own congregation? Help me, Lord, to keep watch in the night, to lift them up to you.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


Originally uploaded by auntjojo

"I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands." Psalm 63.2-3

We reach out to a God who seems to high above, so distant, so glorious. Praise erupts from our lips because of God's goodness and mercy. This... this is the same God who came to earth, who took on human form, who is walking towards Jerusalem, towards certain death on our behalf. This is the God who loves us so immeasurably that God will strive to find a way to stay in relationship with us despite our sin and failings. Lent reminds us of the depth of God's love for us. May we erupt in continual praise.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Can We See God On A Cloudy Day?

As the Heavens
Originally uploaded by auntjojo

The Isaiah text for this week concludes with the familiar phrase, "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways,' declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways..."
I set out to take a beautiful heavens picture this morning, but awoke to gray sky. Perhaps the gray is a bit more fitting. I like to think of Gods thoughts being brilliant blue with bright white clouds floating by. I like to think of the heavens full of stars and a bright shining moon. But the reality is that God's thoughts often seem more gray and cloudy than bright and clear. Walking through the gray is an exercise in trust and faithfulness. On a gray day, however, it is also true that the sky is nearer to us. The clouds are lower. God is not lofty and light years away. Rather God is the mist settling on this earth, surrounding us, enveloping us, comforting us. Jurgen Moltmann speaks of God's immanent transcendence, the reality that the wholly other, other-wordly God is right here with us, very much a part of this world, closer to us than we can ever imagine. High above and deep within... a reality made visible as Jesus makes his way to the cross this Lenten season.

Monday, March 01, 2010

What Will Satisfy Me?

Bread and Oranges
Originally uploaded by auntjojo

The Old Testament text for this week needs little comment:
"Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare." (Isa. 55:1-2)
So often when I am thirsty, when I am in need, when I am exhausted, I turn to the things of this world to satisfy me. They are right there, in every commercial, every movie and sitcom, on every pop-up ad and in my inbox. They promise what only God can deliver. And I seem to fall for it over and over again. When will I learn? When will I finally trust that God is the only one who can truly satisfy me?