Thank you for your patience as I move to a short video format. Peace!
John 16:1-15 Journey, The Deepest Teacher:
We all have had teachers, guides, professors along the way who seemed to know the precise time to say what needed to be said so we could hear it. The first sense of this for me came when my paternal uncle would give me the exact same advice as my father; but from my uncle, my teenage mind would listen. Not being able to listen to one’s parents may be normative for some teenagers but this scenario does point to a deep truth in the spiritual life.
Jesus has been speaking to the disciples and three times there is mention of withholding some pieces of information from his followers. The Lord makes it seem like the people just would not be able to take what was said into their hearts. One gets the sense that the followers weren’t ready to either hear or implement what was to be said. Our walk toward the Lord can be fraught with wrong turns, dead ends, and uphill climbs that seem to never end. Perhaps the spiritual life is, frustratingly, one of constant sequential learning; one where we have to experience the joys of our small steps before we can take in the wisdom of our deeper learnings to come. Today, should we see someone struggling, gently help them see the grace that is theirs today – as fuel to keep moving towards the goal.
Mark 10:35-45 Infantile or Childlike – The Critical Choice We Make:
When I was in 6th grade, I began to be told age-appropriate versions of the Jesus stories in Sunday school. These served me well until a close acquaintance of mine died in High School. Up until then, I never had a reason to question my teachers. When this acquaintance died, I began to ask, “Does Jesus love everyone?” and “Does God protect us, and if so, what are the boundaries of this protection?”
In the reading, Jesus says, “…you will drink from the same cup as I and you will be baptized with the same Baptism as mine…” These ominous words point to a truth that there actually is a difference between an infantile faith and one that is child-like. The infantile faith is formed in a way that simply cannot account for the changes and chances of life; it lacks the ability to engage an infinite God. The childlike faith, on the other hand, experiences the mighty works of God and counts them as wonders; it is able to tease apart what is of God and what is not. Part of our discipleship is to choose which faith supports us as adult believers. This can be discomfiting but we see Jesus at every turn re-forging the disciple’s faith into one that accepts the joys and hardships of real life. Will you join me in praying for the strength to drink the same cup and share the same Baptism as the Lord’s? It is the difference between a fully matured child-like faith and one that tears at each challenge in life.
Mark 6:47-56 Terror and Faith:
The first time I really knew the depth of my dog’s blindness came at the end of one of our rituals. When our walk concluded, I would let Allie off lead and she would always bolt toward our backyard; she always did this, very time, until she didn’t. This time, she leapt away from me and began frantically running back and forth in the street. I called, whistled, clapped, and shouted but to no avail. She was terrified and I put her in that situation; fear in a human and a domesticated animal is a heart rending and sobering thing.
In the reading, Jesus is content to pass by the disciples straining at the oars. Was there something about the disciple’s terror that caused Jesus to change his plans? Is the mix of fear and hardness of heart volatile enough to take square-jawed fishermen and unhinge them in the same way as Allie was unhinged that day? The sea is a place where mistakes are punished mercilessly. This narrative is certainly about walking on water but something else is at play here. Perhaps soul and life threatening choices are most likely when we are frantic and out of sorts. Maybe it is also about setting a watch for terror in ourselves and others for only the Lord can bring reason to splintering lives. (By the way, Allie is safe) www.b4theLord.com
Mark 6:1-13 What a Writer of Horror and Jesus Share
When I was a kid, I loved H.P. Lovecraft. I identified with his human characters because they were so powerless. Like me, they could not figure out why their lives played out in ways they could not grasp; in fact the only answer had to originate in some sort of unstoppable, oppressive, and cosmic horror.
Jesus makes this link between faith and the ability to work miracles; but to me the story just feels like there is something lurking deeper in the narrative. Recalling Lovecraft’s work, I wonder if Jesus hometown was dealing with the hopelessness of powerlessness; as if the real break is further up the chain – not between deeds of power and faith but really between faith and hope. These people of Jesus childhood wanted, even needed to know there was someone, something, greater than the Herods, the Pilates, and the religious rulers who reserved all the best portions of everything for themselves. We all know how hope drains away in the face of constant abuse. And were they really supposed to hope in Mary’s kid?
I feel their situation, we have all been there – where with the last gasp of hope the spark of faith that all will be well simply vanishes. Look around you today with new eyes. Where you see hopelessness, we all are invited to stand with that person until they can regain their true sight. We all are bid to be hope in the middle of hopelessness. www.b4theLord.com
Mark 2:13-22 When Moving On Refreshes the Kingdom of God
Ever wonder why the thing or situation we pray for comes about but maybe not soon enough for our own taste? Some churchy people are quick to say, “In God’s time!” I often make up reasons for this differential; why God showed me my wife to be so late in life, the timing of when I became a priest, or even more mundane, how I came to be treasurer of a former church. The real answer is the quip above. But thinking about my position as treasurer, I wonder if the previous treasurer had to answer his own call from God first. I don’t want this to sound like we are chess pieces in the hands of our Lord. But I do wonder if, in God’s economy, we receive calls to be in certain places for certain times. Perhaps analogous to a series of temporary training grounds and yet all part of the give and take within God’s Kingdom.
The reading in Mark makes me wonder if Jesus’ teachings support this fantasy I have constructed. It appears that the Lord is every ready to give us “new wine” – wine that offers the prospect of walking ever more closely with him should we say yes. If so, it may well be that when we accept a new call from God we make room for someone else to follow in the Master’s footsteps, just as we did.
John 17:9-19 Godly Distance
We all learn to pray in our own way, depending on how we started our spiritual journeys. I learned a very regimented order of prayer operations – the greeting, a few words that indicated the positions God and I occupied in the cosmos, then a group of thanksgivings and petitions, and finally a closing using the catch all “through Jesus we pray”; brilliant and compact and to the sharp point – very Protestant.
At some point it occurred to me that the form I described above was perhaps keeping a goodly distance between me and the Almighty. How is it that I could be closer to God using the sort of staccato speech I was employing in my most private time with the Lord? No prayer is wrong or terrible but should I wish a less formal interaction with another human being, I certainly would not use the syntax and form from my prayers. In the reading, we have evidence of an amazing bond between Father and Son – a bond that I desire with the Lord and my family. During this Lenten season, maybe I could benefit from more conversation with God in Christ Jesus rather than a formula. www.B4theLord.com