Archive for March, 2011

John 8:21-32

Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”  (8:31-32)

Jesus is in a verbal wrestling match with the crowds about his identity.  Jesus speaks of his divine identity, but his hearers think in human terms.  Jesus turns and speaks directly to believers.  His words are an invitation challenging them a step further.

What is it to truly be his disciples?  Disciples make a practice of continuing in God’s word.  They are practitioners of the word.  It is through this continuing action that believers become disciples.  They grow in the knowledge of Christ.

In human terms, skills strengthen and mature with practice.  Further, through the practice of discipleship, our hearts, minds and souls are transformed spiritually.  We grow into the freedom of the divine life of Christ.

This life that we share with Christ is a life of generosity, service and healing.  It is the work of salvation, reconciling a world in need – the freeing of souls and the liberation of bodies. – Karen Montagno

JW – I guess I have to go to Ms. Montagno’s first paragraph above and say that for me to follow Christ is to accept that which is counter-intuitive to a human being,  becoming willing to step into the unknown, and accepting that which I don’t know and can’t see……yet.


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Psalm 81

  1. Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob.
  2. Raise a song, sound the tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp.
  3. Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our festal day.
  4. For it is a statute for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob.
  5. He made it a decree in Joseph, when he went out over the land of Egypt.  I hear a voice I had not known:
  6. I relieved your shoulder of the burden; your hands were freed from the basket.
  7. In distress you called, and I rescued you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah.  Selah
  8. Hear, O my people, while I admonish you; O Israel, if you would but listen to me!
  9. There shall be no strange god among you; you shall not bow down to a foreign god.
  10. I and the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.  Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.  (81:1-10)

 JW – So, the Israelites are stubborn, even with proof that the LORD has saved them.  And the last six verses indicate He will continue, though He is pretty frustrated with them.  However, I sense in this Psalm a sort of acknowledgement by God of how the Israelites are feeling.  They’ve been shoved around for a long time.  They have been enslaved, set free, seen truly unbelieveable things, and finally shown home.  But can they trust this?  I have to admit I would be skeptical, too.  Well, I was for a long time.  Perhaps God is saying something like, ‘Ok humans, get yourselves settled, but keep your faith in me:  I will still take care of you; my love for you is unconditional; learn to trust me; you’ll see.’   That’s what I asked for this morning:  His unconditional love.  His only ask:  my unconditional trust.

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Psalm 78:1-39

…we will tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD…(78:4)

The seventy-two verses of Psalm 78 are worth reading aloud.

Like an action-adventure drama, there are ominous clouds and pillars of fire, food from heaven and water in the desert, hail and thunderbolts, lying and rebellion, forgiveness and betrayal, testing and deliverance.

We expect this kind of story at the movies, with a hero and a happy ending.

But the Psalm, like life, is more complex – and more honest, perhaps.  Violence comes in cycles; destruction grows.  Glimpses of redemption seem dwarfed by famine and death, hunger and captivity.

And there are haunting questions:  Does God’s wrath cause suffering?  Or do we?  Why are some rescued, while others die?

Can we still speak of glorious deeds?  Can we do them?

When our children ask us, what will we say? – Josh Thomas

JW – I just read Psalm 78, and it is indeed, a wild tale of rebellion, and redemption.  It’s exhausting, and reminded me of the terrible twos and teenage-hood combined.  If I look to what God wants from me, it becomes easier to understand what that is.  I think He wants me to be a human as He made me; imbued with the strengths and frailties which came with the package.  God already knows I’m just as capable of greed, as I am compassion; or the other way around.  I am imperfect because I’m supposed to be.  I can, however, ‘love my neighbor’ if I don’t argue about it.  I think He expects me not necessarily to solve the problem, but to live in its solution.  I asked God this morning, to help me do that.

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Jeremiah 7: 1-15

For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors for ever and ever.  (7:5-7)

 The people in Judah like to imagine that the presence of the temple will protect them.  It is all that matters, they believe.  Jeremiah comes along and shatters the illusion.  The truth, he explains, is that what matters is how you treat those who are weakest and most marginalized in society.

Aliens – immigrants – matter because they have no support networks in the place where they are settling.  In Jeremiah’s society, the fatherless mattered because they lacked the traditional support network for survival; it was the father that provided food and housing.  The widow mattered because she had lost her husband and was alone.

Let us all pause today and think about those in our society who are weak and who lack a voice.  Let us commit afresh to praying for these marginalized ones and doing everything we can to provide support them. – Ian Markham

JW – I dislike that I want to know the whys and the wherefores, but I like it when someone solves a riddle for me.  Thank you Ben.  Jeremiah’s words this morning took me right straight to the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman.  I know what God tells me; I just don’t know ‘why’.  I know what to do; I find it easy to turn away.  Believing without proof and living as God wishes, are somehow counter-intuitive……if I make myself the benchmark, the center, the pivot around which my life swirls.  So, thank you Ben, not so much for explaining, but for reminding me.  I needed it, and Jeremiah sealed the deal this morning.  Sometimes my ego gets so naughty!

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Jeremiah 6:9-15

But I am full of the wrath of the LORD; I am weary of holding it in.  Pour it out on the children in the street, and on the gatherings of young men as well; both husband and wife shall be taken, the old folk and the very aged…For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely.  (6:11, 13)

This reading from Jeremiah is one I would rather avoid because it discusses the wrath of God.  Isn’t the nature of God love?  In a word, “Yes” – and that is why God is angry:  “They have treated the wound of my people carelessly”.  God is the lover of the wounded, the one who rises in defense of the poor.

As God’s children, how do we follow this example?  We all pray for peace, but our words are not enough.  How can our actions become a living prayer – not to avoid God’s anger, but to live in our identity as God’s followers?  Halfway through this holy season, there is still time for us to “turn and love” more fully into God.  Exploring the needs within 10 miles off our parish communities, or supporting people living in poverty worldwide through Episcopal Relief & Development, are ways to begin. – Joy Daley

JW – I got very uneasy reading this passage from Jeremiah.  I suppose in one way that’s good:  I know God can get angry, and that can easily affect my actions.  In my life, I’ve been an expert at leading from fear; afraid of God’s anger, people in my life, myself.  Oops.  I had it all wrong.  Tragedy can always be transformed by love:  that’s what Jeremiah is telling me today.

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Jeremiah 5:20-31

“…they have grown fat and sleek.  They know no limits in deeds of wickedness…and they do not defend the rights of the needy.”  (5:28)

It is tempting to hear Jeremiah’s words and be absolutely sure who he is talking to in our day.  But Paul’s keen observation in Romans brings our self-righteousness to its own judgement:  “we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

The challenges faced by the poor have multiple causes, and long-term development efforts by Episcopal Relief & Development attempt to address some of the root causes of poverty.

What was absolutely clear in Jesus’ ministry is that he wasn’t terribly interested in why the man was born blind, why the paralytic couldn’t walk or why the 5,000 had nothing to eat.  He simply healed and fed.  So, too, is our calling. – Duncan Gray III

JW – Why can’t we do both?

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Luke 1:26-38

The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God…For nothing will be impossible with God.”  (1:35, 37)

The Old and New Testaments are filled with accounts of visits from angels.  In the Annunciation story, God sends the Archangel Gabriel with a message for Mary.  Gabriel conveys God’s message that Mary is chosen to bear God’s Son.  The angel’s visit changes Mary’s life and changes the world for all time.

We don’t hear much about angels today.  In the West, the very notion of angels has been largely defined by the media and actualized in gift shop “tchotchkes”.  If angels visit us, in our dreams or even our waking hours, we aren’t talking about it.

Yet Gabriel’s parting words to Mary remind us that “nothing will be impossible with God”.  In each of us there exists the potential not only to receive visits by angels, but even to serve as messengers of God.

Like Gabriel’s life-changing, world-changing effect, each of us has the potential, and baptismal call, to change the world.  It is us, God’s contemporary angels, who can heal a hurting world.  The Holy Spirit bestows the resources, the will and the responsibility upon us at our baptism.

A hungry child…a struggling woman, afraid for her life…a young boy, forced to hold a rifle…all are waiting for an angel.

What will it take for you to be the angel? – Bonnie Anderson

JW – What a nice way for a woman to be told she is with child?!  I am always struck by the calm and soothing power and love in Mary’s encounter with Gabriel.  Wow.  God sends this incredible angel to Mary, calms her immediately with those two simple words, ‘Fear not’, and bingo; the power of God’s love for us is staring right at us.  God is telling us He really loves us, and if we doubted that, is sending His only Son to be with us here on earth.  That the enormity of God’s sacrifice is later confirmed in His Son’s crucifixion and death…..well, all I can say is it sure doesn’t compare with being struck by lightning.  I get it.  It is indeed all about love, and it starts with His love for us.  Today, I need to make sure I’m listening…..when God tells me which neighbor to love.

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