Wednesday – May 22, 2019
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’ Luke 10.25-28
Word of Hope
This short passage is the lead-in to the story of the Good Samaritan. I think this section sometimes gets overshadowed by the more well-known parable that follows. But there are some things here worth consideration. Specifically I find two ideas of note: Who says something and what things are not said.
A lawyer comes to Jesus looking for the key to eternal life. In our day when we think of lawyer we think of civil or criminal law. But this lawyer was most likely a Temple lawyer, steeped in Jewish law; perhaps a colleague of Saul of Tarsus.
Jesus does not answer him; at least not directly. Instead Jesus asks the lawyer what is in the law. And what happens next ties into the two considerations to which I referred. Here is a lawyer. He knows the Jewish law. He knows section and paragraphs or chapter and verse if you will. He knows the Torah, Deuteronomy, and all the laws in those books. Yet he mentions nothing of dietary restrictions, clothing materials, gender, sex, sacrificing bulls, giving Temple alms, or even study. He passes up all of that with ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’
So it is the lawyer, not Jesus who says what the law is. And he says nothing about all those nit-picky rules, regulations, and laws of the Torah.
What is important here? Jesus has caused the lawyer to think about what he already knows; but does not do. How often in the Gospels does Jesus tell some Temple authorities that they just don’t get it? They are following the letter of the law, but not the spirit of the law. This lawyer has been led to see that he already knows the law, but must be told to act upon it. ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’
Loving God, open our eyes to see what we already know. Open our hearts to love You with all our being. And through Your love, let us love ourselves so that we can live our neighbors.
Order of Saint Francis and Saint Clare.
Tuesday – May 21, 2019
“ I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.” Philippians 4.2-3
A Word of Hope
How can you be sure when someone is your best friend? It’s that person who always supports you and with whom you never disagree, right? Not likely. Best friends have differences of opinions all the time as they should. How else can we sort out what’s important in our lives? My mother used to say that if two people on a committee think exactly alike, one of them is unnecessary. Two of the Apostle Paul’s co-workers, Eudoria and Syntyche- sort of the Lucy and Ethel of Scripture- were best friends with differences.
Paul reminds them about the actions of the Best Friend humanity ever had. The founder of their faith had emptied himself and taken on the form of a servant, even to death on the cross. The example of Jesus’ humility in his trials had served Eudoria and Syntyche’s community well when Paul had been among them and those memories are continuing to nurture them at the time of this letter.
The letter to the Philippians reminds us that friends who have experienced hardships, prejudices, and have even seen their whole world shaken will most likely develop durable bonds of love that grow triumphantly out of these common seeds of suffering. But, it’s always the dramas we remember best, and from which we learn the most. This letter of friendship also reminds us that God is always perfecting those good works which had been started in us and that the dramas will never all disappear. At the time of its writing, Euodia and Syntyche are experiencing some ideological differences, but Paul knows the hearts of these two women and lifts them up in prayer instead of scolding them. He writes:
“And this I pray: that your love may grow even more and more to its fullest development in knowledge and keen insight so that you may surely learn to sense what is vital, and approve and prize what is excellent and of real value… to the honor and the praise of God.”
What better prayer for any friend? May it be our prayer for one another and especially for those we call our best friends today.
May our behavior toward one another bring you honor and praise.
Minister for Children and Families
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Monday – May 20, 2019
“So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. God’s going forth is as certain as the dawn; And God will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth.” Hosea 6.3
A Word of Hope
Pain was essential to my life. I was birthed through pain. It was my mother’s sacrifice which yielded fruit. Without loss there is no life, but what is lost? Certainly her own body became my vessel;this revealed that the seed of life was inside her: life inside life. When I was born I was a life in a life still within the biosphere known as Earth. I am composed of the materials found in Earth.
When I drink water I observe rivers in myself. Dirty water in turn pollutes me, so when I hurt the source I hurt myself. That is not to say that water is my source, but that all life which is connected to water or all life which is in relationship to water is connected. All pain flows through your river for we all drink from the same source. Do not reject the water because it has pain in it. You need the pain to grow. It will nourish you with wisdom, patience, endurance, a greater appreciation for love, and understanding all the more.
These words will not be simple, but everything has a purpose. Without bitterness, would I know sweetness? Without sorrow, would I know joy? Without darkness, would I know light? I know this: that I am who I am not just because of the good experiences, but because of the bad ones also.
When I jumped in the water it was cold, but I learned how to swim. Soon my body adjusted and the water did not seem cold any longer. It was not the water that changed, but I. The discomfort that I experienced from the cold water was the bridge to swimming. The cold then was not my enemy, but the door. Likewise, pain is not the enemy, but the doorway to life fully experienced.
Please God make me wiser. Help me not to resent the pain, but to give thanks in all things with a genuine heartfelt appreciation. Heal my heart Lord and take the sorrow, anger, regret, hatred, bitterness, and all manner of sickness. Turn my weeping into shouts of joy. Let me say, “The Lord has given me beauty for my ashes”.
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Friday – May 17, 2019
To him was given dominion and glory and kingship….His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed. Daniel 7.13-14 (NRSV)
A Word of Hope
Once upon a time in a land far, far away lived a man named Daniel.
Daniel noticed those around him grow increasingly disheartened by the growing inequality, injustice, and oppression in their nation. They frequently asked, “What is going on here? Is anyone minding the store? This is insane!” and questioned whether God was in control or had plans to make things right. After all, the evidence did not suggest it.
Remember, these events took place 2500 years ago when such injustices ran rampant and the belief that God would right all wrongs seemed improbable. Unlike today, you understand.
Daniel had a dream and prophesied that God would send a King to rescue them and establish eternal dominion.
The audience in Daniel’s time would have heard in his words the promise of a physical kingdom, one set up by God with a just and powerful ruler God had established.
Hundreds of years later, Jesus arrived on the scene. And those who followed him believed him to be the predicted ruler whose kingdom would be established and last forever. At last, God sent the one who would set all things right. And Jesus must have surprised his followers by teaching them, “The Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21)
He showed that the kingdom of God does not refer only to the physical reign of God, nor a solely spiritual one. Rather, it encompasses both the earthly and heavenly domain of God. It is the realm where God is sovereign and we are living in the peace, beauty, love, and justice God has called us to.
This Kingdom began with Christ and is both current and future, at once present and to come. And that Kingdom is eternal.
When we choose to practice these principles, we essentially seek asylum from the ways of our culture that do not correspond with the ways of Christ. This Kingdom has no walls, no repatriation. We need only agree to usher in the rule of peace, mercy, beauty, kindness, and justice by practicing them.
The teachings of Jesus and the predictions about him tell us that one day the Kingdom will be fully established and all will be made right. But Jesus emphasized that until that day, the principles of the Kingdom and the abilities to usher it in exist in all who follow him.
On Earth as it is in Heaven.
Rather than ask, “When will Christ come back?” but, “When will I – when will we – step up?”
The Kingdom of God operates under a different set of principles. The first shall be last and the last shall be first. The face of Christ can be found in the hungry and homeless. The poor, lonely, marginalized, infirm, and incarcerated. Those who mourn and those who seek peace.
As the Church has done for two thousand years, we can long for a time when Jesus comes back and all is made right. Or we may focus on the areas in our lives where we have the ability to increase justice, mercy, peace, love, and joy in the world around us and the ways in which we can do so. Where am I holding on to resentment, being unkind, passing by those who could use an encouraging word? Where do I see caring for the poor, needy, and ill as someone else’s job? Have I become adept at explaining why others find themselves in difficult situations rather than compelled to mitigate their pain? The reign of a loving God takes place in our minds, hearts, and our interactions with others.
Until such time as all the earth is made as just, peaceful, and beautiful as it is in Heaven, let us remember, in the words of the late author and blogger Rachel Held Evans, that “at the end of the day, we’re all in this Kingdom thing together. We’re all loved by God, all in desperate need of grace, all in need of one another.”
Thursday – May 16, 2019
“Even as I walk through life’s valley shadowed by death,/ I fear no separation, for You are with me…” Rabbi Rami M. Shapiro, Psalm 23
Words of Hope
In the morning dark, when sleep plays hide and seek, and after the prayers for the suffering, scripture comes alive in my head, scripture affirming God’s presence.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want,” the words of the King James Bible, etched in memory from childhood, is often the first responder. Someone else’s comfort may be: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need (GNB).”
With luck—or Grace– after a time the prayers and words of life will lead me beside still waters and rock me back to sleep.
When morning light seeps through the shutters and I awake to writing, sometimes I search out the Hebrew origins for a line in the Psalm, so that the fullest nuances can be gleaned and offered to a reader. Looking at versions using inclusive language can also important. Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying has been a “Godsend” for many women who have been hammered their whole lives with masculine pronouns for the divine. In the 23rd Psalm, Merrill turns to direct, intimate connection with God: “O my Beloved, you are my shepherd, I shall not want.”
For verse 5, she chooses, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of all my fears,” emphasizing fear’s strong role in the enemy-making process.
A recent discovery is the resonant interpretation by Rabbi Rami M. Shapiro. He imagines the previous lines as “You set a table of feasting between me and my enemies,/Inviting us to meet, and eat, and befriend the other within and without.”
And then this beautiful transference of God in us, God in everything:
“When I walk with You and know it is You who walks with me,/ I leave only goodness and mercy in my wake,/ knowing every place is your place and every face is your face.
Exploring various interpretations of the Psalms is not only for the intellectually curious or for us “word people.” Coming into contact with the visions of faithful, gifted artists often pierces the heart, disperses the shadows, brings wonder, delight, and even hope.
And for those times when you just need to be wrapped in the mantle of Mary’s grace, here is Bobby’s McFerrin’s hauntingly beautiful chant of the Psalm.
May goodness and mercy follow [you] all the days of your life, (as you)
dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen.
Dr. Pat Saxon
5910 Cedar Springs Road
Dallas, TX 75235
Toll Free: 800-501-HOPE (4673)