Tuesday – February 23, 2021
They will hammer their swords into plows and their spears into knives. Nations will never again go to war; never prepare for battle again.’
[Preparation: Take a deep breath and exhale slowly….do it again. Place yourself gently in the presence of your God]
Word of Hope
How often do we recognize that the most quotable passages from the sacred texts occur in the Hebrew scriptures? The Christian Testament is founded upon a long and rich tradition from which we extended the conversation with the Lord found in earlier texts. And we believe that God is still speaking to us today in words and signs and prophets and events and in our hearts – if we but truly LISTEN. We are told that our faith can move mountains and yet, when is the last time we tried?!
“They will hammer their swords into plows and their spears into knives. Nations will never again go to war; never prepare for battle again.’ Micha 4:3-4)
This, obviously, remains a prayer and a goal in the face of the human condition. But it is a worthy aspiration and one in which we have some control. In or own lives do we strive to be just and fair as peacemakers? Are we argumentative with others and even those we proclaim to love? Are we generally oblivious to the weapons produced for domestic consumption and use and those that are designed and manufactured for international use?
Who is the largest manufacturer and seller of weapons of war in the world? When it comes to the most destructive nuclear weapons – how many times do the stockpiles of various countries destroy the earth? How many times over will it take to make us feel “safe” and never be afraid again.? Peace starts with us and the relationships that we have.
O Holy One! We are so far short of your desire for us to create the sort of world that Micha proclaimed as your Will. We desperately need your guidance and your reminders about the love you have for each of us. Let us be peacemakers in our own little world and with that little positive ripple in the Universe be joined with millions of others to form a tidal wave of faith, joy,
peace and understanding. We are not alone because we know You are with us and we know others want to be with us, too.
[Take a deep breath and exhale slowly….do it again.]
Cathedral of Hope / United Church of Christ
Monday – February 22, 2021
Acts 14. 8
In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.
A Word of Hope
I have to be honest and say that when I first read this passage, I found it to be troubling. I was immediately drawn to the fact that Paul healed a man who had been lame from birth simply because Paul looked at him and “saw that he had faith.” Paul called to him to “stand up on your feet” and the man jumped up and began to walk. If the miracle here is simply about the lame man’s faith, I am left wondering why so many people of faith are left struggling with disease and adversity. For those of us with a strong faith, we are confident that God is with us through our difficulties, but we are also confident that miraculous healing does not happen as often as we’d like. So, what is the point of this passage?
The main character in this story is Paul. Paul’s ability to heal the man is intended as proof to the non-believers in the power of the good news of the living God. As is often the case, especially to those of little or no faith, the act of God, performed through Paul, was misinterpreted by the people of Lystra. They attributed the healing of the lame man to the gods Mercury and Zeus being sent in human form in Paul and Barnabas. In response, the Lystra people wanted to offer sacrifices to these gods. Paul and Barnabas tried with all their might to hold back the sacrifices offered by the crowd and show them that they were humans. The event led to Paul being stoned and thought dead. The next day, he got up and walked, continuing his mission in another city.
As Paul was fighting of the crowds, he drew on the language of the creation story to further explain the power of God. “He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”. Paul is trying to show the people of Lystra the goodness that is available to them through faith. This passage is meant for non-believers. Paul is trying to persuade them to turn away from the things that separate them from God.
That is the same message that comes to us as we begin this first full week of Lent…turn away from those things that create a barrier between us and our God. As we embark on this Lenten journey, let us pray about what creates that barrier. Is it really chocolate? Is it busy-ness that keeps us from quiet time with God? Is it hardness of heart?
We may not be experiencing a physical lameness as was the man in Lystra, but we may indeed have symptoms of a spiritual lameness, things that keep us from walking strongly and confidently with our God. Lent provides us with a season to look our faith in the eye, to nurture it so that with the sounding of the Easter Alleluias we can jump up and walk in faith like we never have before.
True and living God, nurture in me a faith that strengthens my body, mind, and spirit so that through darkness and light I can walk confidently as a witness to your power and love. Amen.
Order of Saint Francis and Saint Clare
Friday, February 19, 2021
Daniel 7:13-14 (NRSV)
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.
A Word of Hope
About 2500 years ago, the prophet Daniel saw those around him grow disheartened by a nation rife with growing inequality, injustice, and oppression in their nation. The belief that God would right all wrongs seemed improbable, if not ludicrous. If God was either in control or had any plans to make things right, the evidence did not suggest it.
Daniel had a dream and prophesied that God would send a King to both rescue the people of God and to 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 whom 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. Finally, it seemed God had sent the one who would set all things right. But Jesus must have surprised his followers by teaching them that “The Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21)
He showed that the Kingdom of God does not refer simply to a physical reign of God, nor to 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. On Earth as it is in Heaven. 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.
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.
The reign of God takes place in our minds, hearts, and our interactions with others.
Let us seek those 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.
Let us ask: where am I holding on to resentment, being unkind, passing by those who could use an encouraging word? Do I see caring for the poor, needy, and ill as someone else’s job or ministry? Have I become adept at explaining why others find themselves in difficult situations rather than compelled to mitigate their pain?
Until such time as all the earth is made as just, peaceful, and beautiful as it is in Heaven, let us remember, to quote the late author 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 – February 18, 2021
I have held the last of what remains of an earthly life in my hands, whole people now only ashes, years of living reduced to fine rubble, relationships, work, dreams packaged in a plastic bag to be scattered, buried, or put in a concrete square or ornate urn. Time after time, the wind has blown or I have brushed my hand against my side leaving a trace of the remains on my [clothes]. It used to bother me….[but eventually] I came to welcome… the mark of the communion of saints clinging to me….Jill Duffield
A Word of Hope
I couldn’t let go of her then, so touching her ashes felt urgent, holding a physical remnant of her life in the palm of my hands. The grittiness of the ashes surprised me. Had I expected silken beach sands? And the small chunks of bone. Was that what her strong, athletic body had been reduced to? In the early days, I would return to the ritual of holding her in this way and then let the ashes sift through my fingers. Holding and letting go.
And what will we hold onto and relinquish in this pandemic Lent? What ashes will cling to us that might become treasured remnants?
With the promises of the national vaccination program kindled, many have already begun leaping forward to a life of reunions, hugs, live concerts and theater, travel—and in-person church. And with that promise the heart’s hope is lifted. But Lent asks us to put the brakes on—to travel the long and often lonely road with Jesus to the cross.
A part of me is digging in her heels about giving up anything for Lent—when we have already said goodbye to so many and relinquished so much. And, as Fr. Richard Rohr asserts, “The ego prefers just about anything to falling, or changing, or dying. The ego is that part of you that loves the status quo—even when it is not working.”
But each year we must come again to trust the power of the pattern of dying and resurrection which recurs over and over in our lives. Jesus went before us to teach us the way, to teach the path of emptying, surrender, dying.
Franciscan Sister Ilia Delio affirms:
Christianity can help us realize that death and resurrection are part of the evolutionary path toward wholeness, letting go of isolated existence for the sake of deeper union. Something dies but something new is born—which is why the chaos of our times is, in a strange way, a sign of hope; something new is being born within.
Universal Christ, teach us your way once again, that it is in dying that we are born to new life. Amen.
Dr. Pat Saxon
Wednesday – February 17, 2021
1 John 3:2
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
A Word of Hope
Today is Ash Wednesday, when people of many faiths, around the globe, receive ashes placed upon their foreheads in the shape of the cross. This anointing symbolizes both birth and death, revealing we can choose to grow spiritually in our walk with Christ as we move towards our physical end.
There was a time in my life when I unquestionably knew more about Fat Tuesday than Ash Wednesday and was mesmerized with Mardi Gras! Then, after understanding the meaning of the 40 days of Lent, I fell in love with Jesus in a different way. I wanted to explore how his sacrifice would symbolically and literally make a difference for all humankind. When I realized the true meaning of this day, I was awe struck and wanted to know more.
As I continue to explore and appreciate this time as a sojourn, I am also aware of this space between the first breath in the manger and the last breath on the cross, while the empty tomb and resurrection bring the promise of everlasting life.
Ash Wednesday gives us an opportunity to surrender “self” during Lent so we can be filled with God’s will and purpose for our lives.
As an adolescent, I looked forward to Easter festivities with the family, all the while knowing my mother’s plan was to stick me in an uncomfortable dress with a huge bow, matching hat, and stiff shoes. Like the resurrection bringing new hope, I knew if I could get through Sunday morning, my baseball glove was tucked into my easter basket and ready for play.
Like the ashes leading into lent, death and resurrection are not just a one-time event, they become the tapestry of our lives. Each time we allow old fears to die, we open a space to embrace the future. When we allow the spirit of Christ to break down walls that keep us from knowing peace, we come home to ourselves and the promise of eternal life through the sacrifice of Jesus.
Creator God, as we begin this journey into Lent, let our walk with Christ begin anew this day and every day, for the rest of our lives. Amen
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